Archive for August 2013

The Council Has Spoken: August 30, 2013

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Why Fast Food Worker Protests Will Fail

It’s hard not to sympathize with fast food workers, especially since so many of us have been them. One of the first real jobs I ever got was getting hired by a friend who managed a pizza restaurant of a small chain. I made and delivered pizza in the suburbs for minimum wage plus tips, blasting electronic music like Front 242 and goth classics by Bauhaus on my boom box riding shotgun as I drove my Dodge Omni into the ground. Meanwhile I attended college, and took more interest in my extracurricular studies than I did my job. I even let my hair grow out, and when the franchise was taken over, my new owner fired my friend, then demanded I cut my long hair. I refused, was fired, and with typical 19 year old drama told him to kiss my ass.

Looking back on the experience I learned quite a bit, how to handle rude people, the importance of being on as well as managing my own time. But most important I learned to get the skills I needed so that I never had to work fast food again.

When I go to fast food restaurants, I expect to see kids working. I don’t expect to see people making a career in them. If someone is above 30 and still slinging burgers through a drive thru window, I think that person has made a wrong turn somewhere. Perhaps they are a working mother trying to get some skills under her belt or a drunk trying to work and remain sober, or maybe an ex-con who is trying to reintegrate herself into society. Even with these people the job should be a temporary station in a long winding journey where they develop skills, get experience and move on to something better.

Sure the jobs suck, I’m not disagreeing with that. But they are supposed to be temporary; if you are working in the industry for years without moving up the corporate ladder then something is seriously wrong with you that doubling the minimum wage isn’t going to cure.

 

 

 

Council Nominations: August 28, 2013

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The Council Has Spoken: August 23, 2013

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Leftists Disturbed by Reality

Naked Capitalism had a post recently that set me off, A Disturbance of the Force?

The title of the piece says a lot about the writer – someone who can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality.

I have problems with every one of his points. First he makes no mention of the real scandals like the IRS targeting of the right wing, perhaps the most egregious abuse I’ve seen of executive power in my life. He then attacks the Obama administration without really attacking the man himself. Read about China’s Cultural Revolution. Hardcore Chinese socialists became disappointed with the results of the communist revolution, so instead of blaming socialism or the Great Leader Mao himself, they separated the man from his policies and attacked those responsible for implementing the latter for not going far enough. Given the cult of personality built around Obama, I’m not surprised this is happening. I’m expecting it to happen more – with criticism focusing on his underlings like Kerry, Clapper and perhaps even Hillary (as Biden’s team tries to poison her 2016 run).

He also fails to recognize the Ponzi Scheme at the heart of the pension mess: not enough younger workers to support older workers. The enemy of this scheme is not Wall Street – although WS has played the role of crack dealer to Democratic run municipal governments and the unions that put them in power. If the Democrats hadn’t aborted so many children or disseminated birth control as widely as they did, there just might be a larger youth cohort to support the retiring baby boomers. Unfortunately as happens to every pyramid scheme dreamed of since Ponzi himself, the System falls apart the minute the number of bettors declines. Democrats turned to Wall Street to provide higher returns needed to make up for the increasing pension shortfalls, but any non-lefty idiot knows that higher returns come with higher risks.

The real enemy of this guy isn’t Wall Street or the Koch Brothers or Fox News: It’s reality.

The reality is that civilization is under attack by Muslim extremists. Don’t take my word for it, take theirs. We can either fight them over there or fight them here. The Left seems to think the only threat to civilization is Christianity, an entity they’ve fought for hundreds of years. Christianity has lost, becoming neutered in the process. My old neighborhood in St. Louis where I grew up is almost entirely Muslim – Bosnian Muslims. My old Catholic grade school that once had K-8 enrollment of 500 closed down. The church where my father was buried out of and where I served masses (sometimes half-cocked on sacramental wine) has only a handful of elderly parishioners left. I drove past the place last week, and it really bothered me. Those nuns were decent human beings as were the priests, and they’re all gone now. If history is a guide, I expect the local muslims to buy the buildings and turn them into a mosque complex. Saladin would smile.

After Obama took power he made his Cairo speech in ‘09 and to a man who thinks words matter more than actions, he probably thought that’s all he needed to do. He would solve the Middle East because he was smarter than all of his predecessors combined. After all, that’s the way he had been treated all his life.

But reality hates to be ignored, and gradually it asserted itself. Several successful terror attacks happened on his watch, and probably scores more were thwarted. By then the withdrawal from Iraq was almost complete and the retreat from Afghanistan had begun. In order to keep power he had to prevent terror attacks, so the only option left was to use intelligence. Suddenly the NSA was Obama’s new BFF.

Manning, Snowden and Assange are idealists, and like idealists they are idiots. They live in a perfect world where Muslims love us, and al Qaeda is a fantasy that will disappear as soon as we hand Israel to them on a silver plate. Muslims don’t give a damn about the Jews. They’ve got a world to conquer and have God on their side. They will stop at nothing because why should they? In the Koran the ends justify the means; Mohammed regularly made treaties and broke them, killed those who had surrendered, slaughtered innocents. Everything was justifiable through the intent of implementing God’s will on earth.

This “Disturbance in the Force” may be the sensing of this idealist that his world is about to come crashing down around him. I know how it feels. My liberal spirit crashed down around me while I watched my son playing on a playground beneath the flight path of Philly International, and there were no planes in the air except a few F-16s in the days after 9-11. But that doesn’t mean I sympathize with him. In fact I’d laugh in his face given the chance and say, “Welcome to reality Nancy-boy.”

Council Nominations: August 21, 2013

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Elementary School Math

There’s a neighborhood K-5 public school in the middle class suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri. This school employs 18 teachers and 3 full time teacher’s assistants. It also has a staff of 2 full time special education teachers to help integrate special needs children with everything from autism to Down’s Syndrome into classes. So the 300 students who attend the school will be taught by 20 full time teachers and 3 teachers assistants.

This school also employs a librarian, a social worker, a guidance counselor, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist,  an assistant principal and a principal. I have ties that I still wear that are older than the principal who makes $130k a year, and the assistant principal probably makes $20k less.

Assume for a minute that all the teachers make the same, ignoring that there is some variation due to experience, skill-set and gender, but the teacher’s assistants make only minimum wage so we’ll ignore them for now. Let’s make the teacher salary a unit called “teacher“.

With some variation the librarian, a social worker, guidance counselor, occupational therapist, and speech therapist all make the same; assume each makes the same as a teacher, so that’s 5 teachers. The principal’s salary is the equivalent of more than two teachers salaries but the assistant principal’s salary equals less than two teachers salaries, so they balance out to two teachers each, making 4 teachers.

There are also four child psychologists based at this school. These psychologists do spend time at other schools, but those schools also have their own psychologists, some of whom visit this neighborhood K-5 public school. These psychologists are all Ph. Ds with each earning about 1.5 teachers  for a total of 6 teachers.

I’m sure non-teaching professionals provide some value to students, but it’s impossible to determine exactly what since there is no external pressure on these jobs. When budget cuts threaten, the principal doesn’t lose her job the music teacher does. One might think the vaunted teachers’ union that is such the bugaboo of the Right would protect the teachers from such cuts, but they don’t because the union leadership swaps out with school administrators in the district, so they don’t rock the boat because they don’t want to lose these positions when they come open. And although I personally love libraries, I recognize I love the idea of libraries. I devour books the way anacondas devour unlucky villagers, but I haven’t bought a book printed on paper in several years. More importantly, I haven’t used a library as a general reference resource in over a generation. Don’t get me wrong, as a genealogist libraries are crucial, but  few K-5 kids are pouring over baptismal records on microfilm from 150 years ago. If the school employs a librarian, does it also employ a blacksmith and cooper? If not, why not?

So we have 20 teachers that actually teach, and 15 teachers who don’t. Out of the 35 teachers the taxpayers of this community pays for it only receives 20 teachers, a loss of more than 42%. And that doesn’t even count the overhead of the school district, a vast sprawling enterprise that consumes a quarter of a billion dollars of taxpayer revenue each year serving 22,000 students.

That’s $11,364 per student. The school also has a teacher-student ratio of 1:15, yet no teacher earns the $170k that ratio would suggest but the superintendent earns much more than that himself. In terms of actual pay the teacher-student ratio should be 1:5. Why is it three times higher?

While the school’s teacher-student ratio is publicized, what is the school administrator-teacher ratio? I understand that some support personnel are needed for teachers and students, but what keeps this school district from hiring too many, and if the system becomes top heavy with administrators, how does the district rebalance this teacher-administrator balance? What prevents a school district from demanding hire property taxes then using that money to hire a “self-esteem co-ordinator“, another school psychologist or perhaps a pay raise for the superintendent?

In the private sector when a company’s middle management gets too big it is reorganized and people are fired. This pressure comes from shareholders who vote with their money; when the firm is doing well it is assumed to be well run and the stock rises. When a firm does poorly shareholders assume it’s not well run and drive the price down resulting in restructuring and layoffs. When a firm is poorly managed it usually becomes a takeover target the way a wounded seal becomes a meal for a shark.

There is no pressure like this in public education (or medicine – which is a future topic), so how can the taxpayers make a school run efficiently, guaranteeing that their money is used to educate children instead of paying for Caribbean vacations for principals and their spouses?

One of the elite private K-6 elementary schools in St. Louis costs $15,822. That’s less than a $4,500 difference with much better results and a teacher-student ratio of only 1:7. Part of this difference could be made up by disbanding the US Department of Education and applying it’s $70 billion yearly budget to students in the form of a voucher. More savings could come from disbanding Missouri’s educational department. It’s difficult to calculate what that savings would be because some of the State’s money helps fund individual school districts, but for argument’s sake let’s assume that the savings cut the $4,500 difference down to $3,000.  Would it be too much to ask parents to come up with $3k a year to pay for their own child’s education?

$3,000 is $250 a month. That’s a lot in some households, but somehow these same households manage to have cell phone service, cable, high speed internet, and various tattoos and piercings some of which cost thousands of dollars each. “That which is free is abused,” is one of Life’s great truisms, and forcing parents to pay for their children’s education, in the same way that Obamacare compels people to spend money on health insurance, makes them take a personal stake in their child’s education, one of the great problems all teachers face today. As for parents who have more than one child, most private schools offer discounts for multiple enrollments, and besides, why should the rest of Society pay for someone’s personal choice to have a large family? I own a large plot of land by choice, and I pay for that through higher property taxes and a bigger mortgage. I do not expect any type of relief from Society even though I am protecting the land from development and providing a sanctuary for wildlife on an important watershed in America’s Southeast. Now that I think of it, perhaps I should…

Council Nominations: August 14, 2013

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The Council Has Spoken: August 16, 2013

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The Council Has Spoken: August 9, 2013

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Council Nominations: August 7, 2013

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The Council Has Spoken: Aug 2, 2013

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You Know Your Cause is Lost When Your Action Plan Includes Disrupting Funerals

Move over Westboro Church there’s a new asshat in town: Teamsters Local 727. The Washington Free Beacon reports:

The company testified in its filing that union members blocked grieving family members from leaving its parking lot, used bullhorns to shout obscenities at workers and mourners, and unleashed a German Shepard on a dead woman’s daughter and husband.

The funeral home was eventually forced to call the police when picketers allegedly disrupted a child’s funeral with laughter. The officer asked the Teamsters to leave, but protesters returned when he drove away.

“We will be here for the visitation; we will be here for your funeral,” Teamster driver Lester Plewa allegedly shouted into a bullhorn as a funeral director met with a dying man planning his arrangements with family members.

Instead of offering them 9% raises as the funeral home has done they should be offered pink slips at the very least. As Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds suggests, this kind of thing will only end when people start showing up at their houses and their personal tragedies.