Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Hypocrisy of the NDP Healthcare ad is Astonishing!


Jack Layton blames Steven Harper personally for all the failings of Canadian healthcare.  The only problem (the press will never mention) is that the federal government is nothing more than the banker.  All health care management is PROVINCIAL.  The Prime Minister and the Canadian Government have nothing to do with operational control! 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors (

Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors
Morgsatlarge ^ | 3/13/2011 | Dr. Josef Oehmen (M.I.T.)

Posted on Sunday, March 13, 2011 12:24:12 PM by Qbert

I know this is a fairly full on statement from someone posting his very first blog. It will also be far and away the most well written, intelligent post I ever make (I hope!) It also means I am not responsible for its content.

This post is by Dr Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at MIT, in Boston.

He is a PhD Scientist, whose father has extensive experience in Germany’s nuclear industry. I asked him to write this information to my family in Australia, who were being made sick with worry by the media reports coming from Japan. I am republishing it with his permission.

It is a few hours old, so if any information is out of date, blame me for the delay in getting it published.

This is his text in full and unedited. It is very long, so get comfy.

I am writing this text (Mar 12) to give you some peace of mind regarding some of the troubles in Japan, that is the safety of Japan’s nuclear reactors. Up front, the situation is serious, but under control. And this text is long! But you will know more about nuclear power plants after reading it than all journalists on this planet put together.

There was and will *not* be any significant release of radioactivity.

By “significant” I mean a level of radiation of more than what you would receive on – say – a long distance flight, or drinking a glass of beer that comes from certain areas with high levels of natural background radiation.

I have been reading every news release on the incident since the earthquake. There has not been one single (!) report that was accurate and free of errors (and part of that problem is also a weakness in the Japanese crisis communication). By “not free of errors” I do not refer to tendentious anti-nuclear journalism – that is quite normal these days. By “not free of errors” I mean blatant errors regarding physics and natural law, as well as gross misinterpretation of facts, due to an obvious lack of fundamental and basic understanding of the way nuclear reactors are build and operated. I have read a 3 page report on CNN where every single paragraph contained an error.

We will have to cover some fundamentals, before we get into what is going on.

Construction of the Fukushima nuclear power plants

The plants at Fukushima are so called Boiling Water Reactors, or BWR for short. Boiling Water Reactors are similar to a pressure cooker. The nuclear fuel heats water, the water boils and creates steam, the steam then drives turbines that create the electricity, and the steam is then cooled and condensed back to water, and the water send back to be heated by the nuclear fuel. The pressure cooker operates at about 250 °C.

The nuclear fuel is uranium oxide. Uranium oxide is a ceramic with a very high melting point of about 3000 °C. The fuel is manufactured in pellets (think little cylinders the size of Lego bricks). Those pieces are then put into a long tube made of Zircaloy with a melting point of 2200 °C, and sealed tight. The assembly is called a fuel rod. These fuel rods are then put together to form larger packages, and a number of these packages are then put into the reactor. All these packages together are referred to as “the core”.

The Zircaloy casing is the first containment. It separates the radioactive fuel from the rest of the world.

The core is then placed in the “pressure vessels”. That is the pressure cooker we talked about before. The pressure vessels is the second containment. This is one sturdy piece of a pot, designed to safely contain the core for temperatures several hundred °C. That covers the scenarios where cooling can be restored at some point.

The entire “hardware” of the nuclear reactor – the pressure vessel and all pipes, pumps, coolant (water) reserves, are then encased in the third containment. The third containment is a hermetically (air tight) sealed, very thick bubble of the strongest steel. The third containment is designed, built and tested for one single purpose: To contain, indefinitely, a complete core meltdown. For that purpose, a large and thick concrete basin is cast under the pressure vessel (the second containment), which is filled with graphite, all inside the third containment. This is the so-called “core catcher”. If the core melts and the pressure vessel bursts (and eventually melts), it will catch the molten fuel and everything else. It is built in such a way that the nuclear fuel will be spread out, so it can cool down.

This third containment is then surrounded by the reactor building. The reactor building is an outer shell that is supposed to keep the weather out, but nothing in. (this is the part that was damaged in the explosion, but more to that later).

Fundamentals of nuclear reactions

The uranium fuel generates heat by nuclear fission. Big uranium atoms are split into smaller atoms. That generates heat plus neutrons (one of the particles that forms an atom). When the neutron hits another uranium atom, that splits, generating more neutrons and so on. That is called the nuclear chain reaction.

Now, just packing a lot of fuel rods next to each other would quickly lead to overheating and after about 45 minutes to a melting of the fuel rods. It is worth mentioning at this point that the nuclear fuel in a reactor can *never* cause a nuclear explosion the type of a nuclear bomb. Building a nuclear bomb is actually quite difficult (ask Iran). In Chernobyl, the explosion was caused by excessive pressure buildup, hydrogen explosion and rupture of all containments, propelling molten core material into the environment (a “dirty bomb”). Why that did not and will not happen in Japan, further below.

In order to control the nuclear chain reaction, the reactor operators use so-called “moderator rods”. The moderator rods absorb the neutrons and kill the chain reaction instantaneously. A nuclear reactor is built in such a way, that when operating normally, you take out all the moderator rods. The coolant water then takes away the heat (and converts it into steam and electricity) at the same rate as the core produces it. And you have a lot of leeway around the standard operating point of 250°C.

The challenge is that after inserting the rods and stopping the chain reaction, the core still keeps producing heat. The uranium “stopped” the chain reaction. But a number of intermediate radioactive elements are created by the uranium during its fission process, most notably Cesium and Iodine isotopes, i.e. radioactive versions of these elements that will eventually split up into smaller atoms and not be radioactive anymore. Those elements keep decaying and producing heat. Because they are not regenerated any longer from the uranium (the uranium stopped decaying after the moderator rods were put in), they get less and less, and so the core cools down over a matter of days, until those intermediate radioactive elements are used up.

This residual heat is causing the headaches right now.

So the first “type” of radioactive material is the uranium in the fuel rods, plus the intermediate radioactive elements that the uranium splits into, also inside the fuel rod (Cesium and Iodine).

There is a second type of radioactive material created, outside the fuel rods. The big main difference up front: Those radioactive materials have a very short half-life, that means that they decay very fast and split into non-radioactive materials. By fast I mean seconds. So if these radioactive materials are released into the environment, yes, radioactivity was released, but no, it is not dangerous, at all. Why? By the time you spelled “R-A-D-I-O-N-U-C-L-I-D-E”, they will be harmless, because they will have split up into non radioactive elements. Those radioactive elements are N-16, the radioactive isotope (or version) of nitrogen (air). The others are noble gases such as Xenon. But where do they come from? When the uranium splits, it generates a neutron (see above). Most of these neutrons will hit other uranium atoms and keep the nuclear chain reaction going. But some will leave the fuel rod and hit the water molecules, or the air that is in the water. Then, a non-radioactive element can “capture” the neutron. It becomes radioactive. As described above, it will quickly (seconds) get rid again of the neutron to return to its former beautiful self.

This second “type” of radiation is very important when we talk about the radioactivity being released into the environment later on.

What happened at Fukushima

I will try to summarize the main facts. The earthquake that hit Japan was 7 times more powerful than the worst earthquake the nuclear power plant was built for (the Richter scale works logarithmically; the difference between the 8.2 that the plants were built for and the 8.9 that happened is 7 times, not 0.7). So the first hooray for Japanese engineering, everything held up.

When the earthquake hit with 8.9, the nuclear reactors all went into automatic shutdown. Within seconds after the earthquake started, the moderator rods had been inserted into the core and nuclear chain reaction of the uranium stopped. Now, the cooling system has to carry away the residual heat. The residual heat load is about 3% of the heat load under normal operating conditions.

The earthquake destroyed the external power supply of the nuclear reactor. That is one of the most serious accidents for a nuclear power plant, and accordingly, a “plant black out” receives a lot of attention when designing backup systems. The power is needed to keep the coolant pumps working. Since the power plant had been shut down, it cannot produce any electricity by itself any more.

Things were going well for an hour. One set of multiple sets of emergency Diesel power generators kicked in and provided the electricity that was needed. Then the Tsunami came, much bigger than people had expected when building the power plant (see above, factor 7). The tsunami took out all multiple sets of backup Diesel generators.

When designing a nuclear power plant, engineers follow a philosophy called “Defense of Depth”. That means that you first build everything to withstand the worst catastrophe you can imagine, and then design the plant in such a way that it can still handle one system failure (that you thought could never happen) after the other. A tsunami taking out all backup power in one swift strike is such a scenario. The last line of defense is putting everything into the third containment (see above), that will keep everything, whatever the mess, moderator rods in our out, core molten or not, inside the reactor.

When the diesel generators were gone, the reactor operators switched to emergency battery power. The batteries were designed as one of the backups to the backups, to provide power for cooling the core for 8 hours. And they did.

Within the 8 hours, another power source had to be found and connected to the power plant. The power grid was down due to the earthquake. The diesel generators were destroyed by the tsunami. So mobile diesel generators were trucked in.

This is where things started to go seriously wrong. The external power generators could not be connected to the power plant (the plugs did not fit). So after the batteries ran out, the residual heat could not be carried away any more.

At this point the plant operators begin to follow emergency procedures that are in place for a “loss of cooling event”. It is again a step along the “Depth of Defense” lines. The power to the cooling systems should never have failed completely, but it did, so they “retreat” to the next line of defense. All of this, however shocking it seems to us, is part of the day-to-day training you go through as an operator, right through to managing a core meltdown.

It was at this stage that people started to talk about core meltdown. Because at the end of the day, if cooling cannot be restored, the core will eventually melt (after hours or days), and the last line of defense, the core catcher and third containment, would come into play.

But the goal at this stage was to manage the core while it was heating up, and ensure that the first containment (the Zircaloy tubes that contains the nuclear fuel), as well as the second containment (our pressure cooker) remain intact and operational for as long as possible, to give the engineers time to fix the cooling systems.

Because cooling the core is such a big deal, the reactor has a number of cooling systems, each in multiple versions (the reactor water cleanup system, the decay heat removal, the reactor core isolating cooling, the standby liquid cooling system, and the emergency core cooling system). Which one failed when or did not fail is not clear at this point in time.

So imagine our pressure cooker on the stove, heat on low, but on. The operators use whatever cooling system capacity they have to get rid of as much heat as possible, but the pressure starts building up. The priority now is to maintain integrity of the first containment (keep temperature of the fuel rods below 2200°C), as well as the second containment, the pressure cooker.  In order to maintain integrity of the pressure cooker (the second containment), the pressure has to be released from time to time. Because the ability to do that in an emergency is so important, the reactor has 11 pressure release valves. The operators now started venting steam from time to time to control the pressure. The temperature at this stage was about 550°C.

This is when the reports about “radiation leakage” starting coming in. I believe I explained above why venting the steam is theoretically the same as releasing radiation into the environment, but why it was and is not dangerous. The radioactive nitrogen as well as the noble gases do not pose a threat to human health.

At some stage during this venting, the explosion occurred. The explosion took place outside of the third containment (our “last line of defense”), and the reactor building. Remember that the reactor building has no function in keeping the radioactivity contained. It is not entirely clear yet what has happened, but this is the likely scenario: The operators decided to vent the steam from the pressure vessel not directly into the environment, but into the space between the third containment and the reactor building (to give the radioactivity in the steam more time to subside). The problem is that at the high temperatures that the core had reached at this stage, water molecules can “disassociate” into oxygen and hydrogen – an explosive mixture. And it did explode, outside the third containment, damaging the reactor building around. It was that sort of explosion, but inside the pressure vessel (because it was badly designed and not managed properly by the operators) that lead to the explosion of Chernobyl. This was never a risk at Fukushima. The problem of hydrogen-oxygen formation is one of the biggies when you design a power plant (if you are not Soviet, that is), so the reactor is build and operated in a way it cannot happen inside the containment. It happened outside, which was not intended but a possible scenario and OK, because it did not pose a risk for the containment.

So the pressure was under control, as steam was vented. Now, if you keep boiling your pot, the problem is that the water level will keep falling and falling. The core is covered by several meters of water in order to allow for some time to pass (hours, days) before it gets exposed. Once the rods start to be exposed at the top, the exposed parts will reach the critical temperature of 2200 °C after about 45 minutes. This is when the first containment, the Zircaloy tube, would fail.

And this started to happen. The cooling could not be restored before there was some (very limited, but still) damage to the casing of some of the fuel. The nuclear material itself was still intact, but the surrounding Zircaloy shell had started melting. What happened now is that some of the byproducts of the uranium decay – radioactive Cesium and Iodine – started to mix with the steam. The big problem, uranium, was still under control, because the uranium oxide rods were good until 3000 °C. It is confirmed that a very small amount of Cesium and Iodine was measured in the steam that was released into the atmosphere.

It seems this was the “go signal” for a major plan B. The small amounts of Cesium that were measured told the operators that the first containment on one of the rods somewhere was about to give. The Plan A had been to restore one of the regular cooling systems to the core. Why that failed is unclear. One plausible explanation is that the tsunami also took away / polluted all the clean water needed for the regular cooling systems.

The water used in the cooling system is very clean, demineralized (like distilled) water. The reason to use pure water is the above mentioned activation by the neutrons from the Uranium: Pure water does not get activated much, so stays practically radioactive-free. Dirt or salt in the water will absorb the neutrons quicker, becoming more radioactive. This has no effect whatsoever on the core – it does not care what it is cooled by. But it makes life more difficult for the operators and mechanics when they have to deal with activated (i.e. slightly radioactive) water.

But Plan A had failed – cooling systems down or additional clean water unavailable – so Plan B came into effect. This is what it looks like happened:

In order to prevent a core meltdown, the operators started to use sea water to cool the core. I am not quite sure if they flooded our pressure cooker with it (the second containment), or if they flooded the third containment, immersing the pressure cooker. But that is not relevant for us.

The point is that the nuclear fuel has now been cooled down. Because the chain reaction has been stopped a long time ago, there is only very little residual heat being produced now. The large amount of cooling water that has been used is sufficient to take up that heat. Because it is a lot of water, the core does not produce sufficient heat any more to produce any significant pressure. Also, boric acid has been added to the seawater. Boric acid is “liquid control rod”. Whatever decay is still going on, the Boron will capture the neutrons and further speed up the cooling down of the core.

The plant came close to a core meltdown. Here is the worst-case scenario that was avoided: If the seawater could not have been used for treatment, the operators would have continued to vent the water steam to avoid pressure buildup. The third containment would then have been completely sealed to allow the core meltdown to happen without releasing radioactive material. After the meltdown, there would have been a waiting period for the intermediate radioactive materials to decay inside the reactor, and all radioactive particles to settle on a surface inside the containment. The cooling system would have been restored eventually, and the molten core cooled to a manageable temperature. The containment would have been cleaned up on the inside. Then a messy job of removing the molten core from the containment would have begun, packing the (now solid again) fuel bit by bit into transportation containers to be shipped to processing plants. Depending on the damage, the block of the plant would then either be repaired or dismantled.

Now, where does that leave us?

The plant is safe now and will stay safe.

Japan is looking at an INES Level 4 Accident: Nuclear accident with local consequences. That is bad for the company that owns the plant, but not for anyone else.

Some radiation was released when the pressure vessel was vented. All radioactive isotopes from the activated steam have gone (decayed). A very small amount of Cesium was released, as well as Iodine. If you were sitting on top of the plants’ chimney when they were venting, you should probably give up smoking to return to your former life expectancy. The Cesium and Iodine isotopes were carried out to the sea and will never be seen again.

There was some limited damage to the first containment. That means that some amounts of radioactive Cesium and Iodine will also be released into the cooling water, but no Uranium or other nasty stuff (the Uranium oxide does not “dissolve” in the water). There are facilities for treating the cooling water inside the third containment. The radioactive Cesium and Iodine will be removed there and eventually stored as radioactive waste in terminal storage.

The seawater used as cooling water will be activated to some degree. Because the control rods are fully inserted, the Uranium chain reaction is not happening. That means the “main” nuclear reaction is not happening, thus not contributing to the activation. The intermediate radioactive materials (Cesium and Iodine) are also almost gone at this stage, because the Uranium decay was stopped a long time ago. This further reduces the activation. The bottom line is that there will be some low level of activation of the seawater, which will also be removed by the treatment facilities.

The seawater will then be replaced over time with the “normal” cooling water

The reactor core will then be dismantled and transported to a processing facility, just like during a regular fuel change. Fuel rods and the entire plant will be checked for potential damage. This will take about 4-5 years.

The safety systems on all Japanese plants will be upgraded to withstand a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami (or worse) I believe the most significant problem will be a prolonged power shortage. About half of Japan’s nuclear reactors will probably have to be inspected, reducing the nation’s power generating capacity by 15%. This will probably be covered by running gas power plants that are usually only used for peak loads to cover some of the base load as well. That will increase your electricity bill, as well as lead to potential power shortages during peak demand, in Japan.

If you want to stay informed, please forget the usual media outlets and consult the following websites:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Media simultaneously savaged Sarah Palin, protected Barack Obama


Source URL:

By Lee Benedict

Guest Columnist

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sarah Palin was the only major party candidate on the 2008 ballot with executive experience.

Palin was the chief executive of a state canvassing more than 586,000 square miles -- Texas has 269,000 -- that borders Canada and Russia, with a budget of $6.6 billion. Approximately 85 percent of Alaska's budget hinges on oil production. Her resume includes being chairwoman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Soon after becoming governor, Palin sold the state's private jet for $2.1 million that her predecessor purchased and billed Alaskans for. She defeated that sitting Republican governor in a primary.

Palin used the line-item veto to quash $260 million of Alaska's proposed budget for capital projects -- pork -- to which the Anchorage Daily News said, the cuts "may be the biggest single-year line-item veto total in state history."

The media never reported her stewardship. It did, however, deploy a brigade of investigators to Alaska to search for proverbial dirt, finding none. They attempted to create a national controversy over the origins of her campaign clothing. The Republican national Committee purchased designer clothes for her since she is neither ostentatious nor vain, and did not possess $600 shoes or $2,500 dresses as Jill Biden and Michelle Obama have long demanded.

PALIN'S WARDROBE was more vital to the selection of the free world's leader than the Democratic nominee's history and close personal relationship with Bill Ayers, Larry Sinclair, Donald Young, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and others that the media spun away, if reported at all.

President Obama lived part of his life as Barry Soetoro, and reportedly used more than a dozen Social Security numbers. Obama claims to have been born in Hawaii of two U.S. citizens -- we know they were not -- but has refused to prove he is a natural-born citizen.

He and his campaign has spent approximately $2 million fighting to keep this matter out of court. But Palin's clothing and foreign policy experience took center stage.

For a certified copy of vital records, according to the Hawaii State Department of Health, one must submit an application and pay "$10 for the first copy of each certificate, and $4 for each additional copy of the same certificate ordered at the same time."

Granted, spending $2 million and counting, vs. filling out an application and cutting a check for $10, may seem normal for Democrats. But the media harangues the Palins to this day, yet refuses to report truth regarding Obama.

Moreover, three years of Obama's life are unaccounted for. The media fix was in from day one. For confirmation, compare the media's treatment of an executive seeking the office of vice president to its treatment of a U.S. senator of 138 days seeking the office of president.

The horrible shootings in Arizona prompted the media and others to literally blame Palin for an unstable individual's actions. Soon after that tragedy, on Jan. 23, the Missoula Children's Theater in Montana was performing The Mikado . The director added a scene calling for Palin's beheading.

I once thought that the media has a seething hatred for this woman. Now I am convinced that those who are obsessed with her demise are afraid of her resolve and character, which causes her to be a positive role model.

PALIN HAS A STRONG executive record of nonpartisan governance and doing what she believed to be right, from which Alaska benefitted, thereby making her a threat to those who make their living and receive gratification by controlling others.

She has endured some of the most heinous media attacks in history, and I ask: Why? What has she done to warrant any of it? Who in all of recorded history has received such unwarranted or warranted venomous attacks? Eliot Spitzer gets a television program. Jim McGreevey is forgotten. Ted Kennedy is idolized. Sarah Palin? Demonized. What is the media's true objective?

Media reports labeled her "unqualified." This mother of five, bottom line, is a tough-as-nails, no-nonsense, commonsense American who has governed honorably America's largest state.

Palin hunts and brings food home, and with four generations of Heaths and Palins, prepares the bounty for storage.

Palin is pro-life, and proved it when she did not murder her unborn son via an abortion after doctors claimed he has Down syndrome. She walks her talk, and the Sarah Palins of the world rely on themselves, not government programs, and their happiness and prosperity is not mandated by Washington, D.C.

She is a strong woman with convictions and a belief in the U.S. Constitution, and the American will and spirit of the Founders that cannot, and will not, be broken -- regardless of what the bitter media sends her way.

(The writer is a teacher at Butler High School, an Iraq War veteran and a past candidate for local and state office.)

Clarice's Pieces: Picture This (American Thinker)

March 06, 2011


By Clarice Feldman

This picture tells what I mean to say about this week: The persistence of false memes and how they are destroying America's poor and the fabric of our nation. We must be more successful in persuading those who believe them that they are false. Because we ca nnot count on our cultural elites to do this job, we must carry the torch.

Study it. Here's a shot of an apparently poor black man. He is picketing in Chicago carrying a misspelled sign which charges that charter schools are being promoted by "big business."

To my mind, it suggests the following:

  • 1. The man who produced the sign is very poorly educated. When to use "whose" or "who's" is something that ought to have been learned in first or second grade.
  • 2. The picketer thinks that big business is evil and profit-making institutions are working against his interests.
  • 3. He also thinks by implication that unionized teachers provide a better opportunity for a good education than a private education can.

Not only the poor hold such misconceptions, but that they do goes some distance toward explaining why in a land full of boundless opportunities, the poor stay poor. They have aligned themselves with people who are not working in their best interests. Richer, better-educated people may share these views but they have other options in life that help them escape the consequences of such folly.

Among those who share the picketer's expressed views is the NYT columnist Paul Krugman who, moved by the plight of Wisconsin's unionized teachers engaged in thuggish and unethical behavior because the governor who has no more money to pay them the lavish benefits promised -- but not budgeted for -- by his predecessors finds he must cut those back or discharge thousands of state employees, wrote a column suggesting that unionized teachers in Wisconsin provide better educations than non-unionized teachers in Texas.

This prompted Iowahawk to strike back at the sophistry of that argument.

As a son of Iowa, I'm no stranger to bragging about my home state's ranking on various standardized test. Like Wisconsin we Iowans usually rank near the top of the heap on average ACT/SAT scores. We are usually joined there by Minnesota, Nebraska, and the various Dakotas; Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire...

... beginning to see a pattern? Perhaps because a state's "average ACT/SAT" is, for all intents and purposes, a proxy for the percent of white people who live there. In fact, the lion's share of state-to-state variance in test scores is accounted for by differences in ethnic composition. Minority students -- regardless of state residence -- tend to score lower than white students on standardized test, and the higher the proportion of minority students in a state the lower its overall test scores tend to be.

Please note: this has nothing to do with innate ability or aptitude. Quite to the contrary, I believe the test gap between minority students and white students can be attributed to differences in socioeconomic status. And poverty. And yes, racism. And yes, family structure. Whatever combination of reasons, the gap exists, and it's mathematical sophistry to compare the combined average test scores in a state like Wisconsin (4% black, 4% Hispanic) with a state like Texas (12% black, 30% Hispanic).

Iowahawk wasn't saying something new. In Defining Deviancy Down Senator Patrick Moynihan noted that some forty-six years earlier he said much the same thing:

"A few months before Barton's study appeared, I published an article showing that the correlation between eighth-grade math scores and distance of state capitals from the Canadian border was .522, a respectable showing. By contrast, the correlation with per pupil expenditure was a derisory .203. I offered the policy proposal that states wishing to improve their schools should move closer to Canada. This would be difficult, of course, but so would it be to change the parent-pupil ratio.
Indeed, the 1990 Census found that for the District of Columbia, apart from Ward 3 west of Rock Creek Park, the percentage of children living in single-parent families in the seven remaining wards ranged from a low of 63.6 percent to a high of 75.7. This being a One-time measurement, over time the proportions become asymptotic. And this in the nation's capital. No demand for change comes from that community - or as near to no demand as makes no matter. For there is good money to be made out of bad schools. This is a statement that will no doubt please many a hard heart, and displease many genuinely concerned to bring about change. To the latter, a group in which I would like to include myself, I would only say that we are obliged to ask why things do not change.

But so many of us still ignore the basic truths that "there is good money to be made out of bad schools," that family structure matters and that there is no evidence that paying teachers more and vastly increasing the size of our administrative staffs, in large part to comply with federal mandates, creates better educated pupils,

In fact, where voucher programs exist -- as they do in Milwaukee -- parents seem very happy with them. We had a small voucher program here in Washington, D.C. but this Administration, bowing to pressure from the teachers union, which sees alternatives like vouchers as a threat, demanded the program end. With the exception of Carter, presidents with school age children here send their children to private schools, as does virtually every Democrat in Congress, who lives with children here.

Political leaders are not the only hypocrites on the matter. Public school teachers show us what they think about the quality of their own teaching--- in very large numbers they pick private schools for their own children:

Nationwide, public school teachers are almost twice as likely as other parents to choose private schools for their own children, the study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found. More than 1 in 5 public school teachers said their children attend private schools.

In Washington (28 percent), Baltimore (35 percent) and 16 other major cities, the figure is more than 1 in 4. In some cities, nearly half of the children of public school teachers have abandoned public schools.

In Philadelphia, 44 percent of the teachers put their children in private schools; in Cincinnati, 41 percent; Chicago, 39 percent; Rochester, N.Y., 38 percent. The same trends showed up in the San Francisco-Oakland area, where 34 percent of public school teachers chose private schools for their children; 33 percent in New York City and New Jersey suburbs; and 29 percent in Milwaukee and New Orleans.

Michael Pons, spokesman for the National Education Association, the 2.7-million-member public school union, declined a request for comment on the study's findings. The American Federation of Teachers also declined to comment.

"Across the states, 12.2 percent of all families -- urban, rural and suburban -- send their children to private schools," says the report, based on 2000 census data.

Public school teachers in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Chicago, Rochester, N.Y., and Baltimore registered the most dissatisfaction with the schools in which they teach.

... in cities like Milwaukee... where 29.4 percent of public school teachers sent their children to private schools... [Emphasis supplied.]

Bluntly put, it is a mistake for poor blacks like the picketer to support teachers unions. They do not represent their interests.

But the ill-educated picketer might be forgiven his failure to understand this. We need to do a better job at getting the word out, that the government, and in particular, unionized teachers are no friend of the poor. Government workers have not the same interest business has in a well-educated, healthy and productive work force.

What cannot be forgiven is that better educated citizens persist in clinging to and promoting false and damaging memes that undermine society.

No better example of this is Attorney General Eric Holder, B.A. Columbia College, J.D., Columbia Law School, who outrageously tried to deflect justifiable criticism of his decision to drop a case his department had won against thuggery at the polling place in Philadelphia by the New Black Panther Party by dealing the race card from the bottom of his deck.

Testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the case, he kept giving evasive answers. Congressman Culberson pressed Holder to answer the charge by another witness that the Panther behavior was the worst voter intimidation case he's seen in his lifetime, Holder responded, "When you compare what people endured in the South to try to get the right to vote for African-Americans to compare what people subjected to that with what happened in Philadelphia...does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line, who risked all for my people."

Holder, of course, is the representative of ALL the people in the U.S. and has taken an oath to defend the Constitution and laws of this country, which most certainly means he is duty bound to enforce equally all cases of voter intimidation, whether the voters being intimidated are white or black. His answer proves the charges against him that the Department is selectively enforcing the Voters Rights Act in line with some benighted notion of payback or what is unaccountably referred to as "social justice." Racism is racism and has an equally pernicious, corrosive effect on society no matter who is engaging in it. People obey the law because they think that overall it is fair and is being fairly enforced. When it is obviously not the case, people see no reason to comply or to try to get legal redress and are encouraged to seek extra-legal means to resolve disputes.

Holder is not alone in suggesting that social justice requires disadvantaging whites. The city of Seattle's leaders apparently share this view. Its "race and social justice initiative" aims to redress past discrimination against blacks and other racial minorities by reducing minority prosecutions for law breaking by 90 percent, subjecting immigrants -- legal and illegal -- to lighter sentences for fear they might get deported and jiggering its hiring policies because jobs requiring college degrees are considered "racist" since more whites than minorities have such degrees.

Finally, there's a suggestion that the President, under deserved fire, grabbed for the race card. U.S. News and World Report, flogging a book by one of its correspondents, said that in a May 2010 private White house dinner suggested that the tea party protests were probably motivated by racial animosity toward him. Tom Maguire suggests that Obama was just pandering again to rich donors like those who he once talked about bitter clingers.

"I think (hope?!?) he was being polite to some fat-cat donors rather than describing his own convictions (and I am bitterly clinging to the notion that he has some convictions)." Tom, did concede though, that given his track record, Obama might actually believe that opposition to his policies is racist: "THEN AGAIN: The First Panderer is also the First Condescender, so he might very well believe the worst of these lowly Tea Partiers..."

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal says the magazine, in promoting a book by one of its own, may have sensationalized the exchange and the President only said that a "subterranean [racist] agenda exists'.

To my mind even the most generous version, Taranto's, suggests a lack of character and is no more defensible in a President than Holder's and Seattle's actions. Perhaps if our elected officials understood that opposition to their policies might be meritorious and worth listening to, they might craft laws and practices worth respecting. Perhaps if they did the harder job of actually trying to deal with the causes of racial disparity -- fighting the teachers unions, encouraging intact families, defending capitalism and abjuring racial pandering -- we all would be better off.

In the end though, what I think of their conduct doesn't matter as much as the fact that Holder, Seattle and Obama are playing with dynamite and the damage -- whether intentional or "subterranean" -- would be to an orderly, productive, law-abiding society, which offers the best possible life for people of all races and economic station.

8 Comments on "Clarice's Pieces: Picture This"

Friday, March 4, 2011

Public Employee Unions

Public Employee Unions ^ | March 3, 2011 | Walter Williams

Posted on Friday, March 04, 2011 7:57:30 AM by Kaslin

With all of the union strife in Wisconsin, Indiana and New Jersey, and indications of more to come, it might be time to shed a bit of light on unions as an economic unit.

First, let's get one important matter out of the way. I value freedom of association, and non-association, even in ways that are not always popular and often deemed despicable. I support a person's right to be a member or not be a member of a labor union. From my view, the only controversy regarding unions is what should they be permitted and not permitted to do.

According to the Department of Labor, most union members today work for state, local and federal government. Close to 40 percent of public employees are unionized. As such, they represent a powerful political force in elections. If you're a candidate for governor, mayor or city councilman, you surely want the votes and campaign contributions from public employee unions. In my view, that's no problem. The problem arises after you win office and sit down to bargain over the pay and working conditions with unions who voted for you.

Given the relationship between politicians and public employee unions, we should not be surprised that public employee wages and benefits often average 45 percent higher than their counterparts in the private sector. Often they receive pension and health care benefits making little or no contribution.

How is it that public employee unions have such a leg up on their private-sector brethren? The answer is not rocket science. Employers in the private sector have a bottom line. If they overcompensate their employees, company profits will sink. The company might even face bankruptcy.

Of course, if private companies can count on federal government bailouts, as did General Motors and Chrysler, they can maintain a comfy relationship with their unions. No such bottom line exists in the government sector. Politicians have every reason to grant benefits to their political allies, in this case public employee unions. They don't pick up the tab; it's unorganized taxpayers who face higher taxes.

Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker says that stripping the workers of collective bargaining rights, and limiting talks to the subject of basic wages, is necessary to give the state the flexibility to get its finances in order and spare taxpayers further grief.

Consider the cushy deal for many of California's unionized state and local police, fire and prison employees. They have what's called a "3 percent at 50" formula that determines their retirement check. It's based on 3 percent of the average of the three highest-paid years of the employee's career, multiplied by the number of years on the job. An employee with 20 years' service can retire at age 50 and receive 60 percent of his salary. Employees often boost their retirement income by putting in a lot of overtime hours during their last three years of service.

Temple University professor William Dunkelberg said in his recent CNBC article "Should Unions Have the Power to Tax?": "The 'employers' (taxpayers through their elected officials) have slowly lost their ability to determine the terms of employment offers. The unions now determine working hours, hiring criteria, the quantity of 'output' to be produced per day, the number of sick and vacation and holiday days, how their performance will be evaluated etc. No longer can the employer make an 'offer' for a job with requirements that fit the needs of the public institution."

Major states like California, New York, Illinois, Ohio and New Jersey -- and the federal government -- are on the verge of bankruptcy. Large cities like Los Angeles; Chicago; New York; Washington, D.C.; Newark; and Detroit are facing bankruptcy as well. Does that tell you something? It tells me that we can no longer afford to do what we've done in the past. We must make large cuts in spending. Spending on public employee salaries is just a drop in the bucket.