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« February 2005 | Main | April 2005 »

March 31, 2005

May She Rest In Peace...

Terri Sciavo has died. William Anderson has some thoughts over on The Daily Standard. He begins:

"SO IT HAS ENDED. The nightmare of judicial execution by dehydration is finally over..."

More Union Dirty Tricks...

Enlightening op-ed in this morning's Wall Street Journal regarding various union's use of pension funds to influence politics. It seems that union pension fund managers are threatening to either move assets from or cause "shareholder revolts" against firms or individuals that are responsible for management of those funds if they don't fall into the union line on issues such as Social Security Reform, etc. I was aware of the California pension fund's intrusion into the Safeway labor troubles last year, but only recently learned about other unions targeting reformers. There is something very ironic about unions using their equity and bond investment funds as leverage to tell people that those same funds are not safe for Social Security funds.

Here's a tidbit from today's article:

"A notable sidelight to the Social Security debate has been Big Labor's battle to keep business from supporting reform. The specifics of that attack are worth examining in their own right (see below), but the bigger story here is the way the AFL-CIO and its friends are now using pension funds to advance their political agenda.

With their membership falling, union leaders are finding it harder to influence companies or politics from the factory floor. Their new approach is to use their control over large employee pension plans to insert themselves directly into the boardroom. The result is what one observer has termed "the new politics of capital," in which liberal activists attempt to turn entire corporations into lobbyists for their social and political goals, their campaigns all neatly disguised as "shareholder activism."

Last year Calpers, the pension fund managing some $180 billion in assets for California workers, used its investment in Safeway to advance a labor agenda. When the grocer took a tough stance against its union during a strike, several Calpers board members demanded that it capitulate. Yet even as then-Calpers Chairman Sean Harrigan put the screws to Safeway, he was serving as the executive director of the very food workers' union striking against the grocer. Eleven of the 13 Calpers board members had union ties, including Democratic State Treasurer Phil Angelides, who will undoubtedly point to his anti-Safeway bona fides while hustling labor endorsements for his 2006 gubernatorial run.

Meanwhile on the East Coast, New York State's Democratic Comptroller Alan Hevesi was using his clout to aid John Kerry. When Sinclair Broadcast Group decided to air "Stolen Honor," a documentary on Mr. Kerry's post-Vietnam antiwar activities, Mr. Hevesi fired off a letter to the company in his capacity as trustee of the state pension fund (which owned shares of Sinclair) suggesting the broadcast could hurt "shareholder value." Recognizing a not-so-subtle-threat when it saw one, Sinclair pulled the show.

Now comes the AFL-CIO's campaign against private Social Security accounts. In addition to its usual grassroots and Congressional lobbying, it is threatening to pull its $400 billion pension fund business from any financial services firms backing personal accounts. "We have no intention of letting any of these companies get away with this while they manage our workers' funds," stated Gerald Shea, a top AFL-CIO lobbyist.

That threat sent two Wall Street players, Edward Jones and Waddell Reed, scurrying out of a coalition supporting reform, as did the Financial Services Forum, a group of 21 chairmen of large financial concerns. Next on labor's hit list are heavyweights ranging from Morgan Stanley to Charles Schwab. Three trustees representing the New York City Employees' Retirement System recently sent a letter to a half-dozen investment banking companies demanding a review of their Social Security stance.

The problems with all this are many, starting with a rich irony: Unions are using the clout they've acquired from investing in the stock market to oppose a plan to let individuals invest their own tax money in the same market. According to a Tax Foundation paper, of nearly $2 trillion in public employee pension plan assets, 55% are invested in corporate equities. Labor leaders don't mind stock-market investing when it enhances their own political leverage, but for individual workers to build their own wealth is too "risky."

Then there's the use of the "shareholder rights" slogan to muzzle the free-speech of corporations. If any CEO who speaks up on a hot-button issue is suddenly risking "shareholder value," we are in a brave new political world. The next step will be to stop corporate execs from making political donations, or contributing to the Chamber of Commerce.

Most troubling of all is the confusion of fiduciary responsibility with partisan politics. As a matter of law, pension-fund trustees have a fiduciary duty to maximize investment returns for their beneficiaries. That certainly includes the right as shareholders to lobby for better "corporate governance," to the extent that that improves company performance or prevents fraud.

But Big Labor's new political campaigns have nothing at all to do with return on shareholder equity. They may even end up lowering returns to the extent that they prohibit certain good investments or obstruct useful government reforms. A successful union strike would have made Safeway less competitive against Wal-Mart and other companies. And Schwab and other investment companies could only benefit from the spread of an "ownership society" more knowledgeable about stock-market investing (even if companies' direct fees from managing Social Security accounts were negligible)."

March 30, 2005

Muslim Pluralism

The Muslim scholar Stephen Schwartz introduces a new moderate Islamic platform today in an article on TechCentralStation. The islamicpuralism.org website represents an attempt to promote moderate Islam of many colors - Sunni, Shia, spiritual Sufi, etc. Hopefully, this will provide an effective counterweight to organizations like CAIR, which profess to be moderate but are actually offspring of Wahabbism, the Saudi Arabian fundamentalist sect, and hardly moderate. We wish them luck, and encourage everyone to check out both Schwartz's article and the Center for Islamic Pluralism's website.

George Felos, Moonbat

George Felos is Michael Sciavo's attorney, and has been a regular on newscasts over the past several weeks. Eric Pheiffer has an article on him today over at NRO. This man is a very strange dude. I wonder why the media hasn't caught on yet?

"Felos believes he used this "conscious evolution" in his first "right-to-die" case concerning Estelle Browning. Felos says when he was alone with Browning they shared a "soul touch" in which their spirits left their respective bodies and spoke to each other. It was in this encounter that Browning "told" Felos she wanted to die:

"As I continued to stay beside Mrs. Browning at her nursing home bed, I felt my mind relax and my weight sink into the ground. I began to feel lightheaded as I became more reposed. Although feeling like I could drift into sleep, I also experienced a sense of heightened awareness."

He writes,
As Mrs. Browning lay motionless before my gaze, I suddenly heard a loud, deep moan and scream and wondered if the nursing home personnel heard it and would respond to the unfortunate resident. In the next moment, as this cry of pain and torment continued, I realized it was Mrs. Browning.

I felt the midsection of my body open and noticed a strange quality to the light in the room. I sensed her soul in agony. As she screamed I heard her say, in confusion, "Why am I still here ... Why am I here?" My soul touched hers and in some way I communicated that she was still locked in her body. I promised I would do everything in my power to gain the release her soul cried for. With that, the screaming immediately stopped. I felt like I was back in my head again, the room resumed its normal appearance, and Mrs. Browning, as she had throughout this experience, lay silent.

In addition to his soul-touch with Estelle Browning, Felos also says he had a pre-conception conversation with his future son, who said, "I'm ready to be born...will you stop this fooling around!""

Sciavo Memogate Con't...

Howard Kurtz finally gives this 'GOP talking points memo' issue a bit of the attention that it deserves. It comes off as only a bit better than the Volker whitewash attempts - Kurtz attempts to say that no-one claimed that it was a GOP originated memo, which doesn't even pass the laugh test. Check out the article and the way it is written, however. It's as close as we'll ever get to seeing anyone at the Post or ABC news admit that they were had (in a Rathergate sort of way).

Powerline has more commentary here. And this quote from Hindrocket sums up this sordid memo issue well:

"As I said to Howard Kurtz, "The content of the memo tells me it wasn't prepared to benefit the Republican Party, it was prepared to benefit the Democratic Party.""

And Michelle Malkin has some interesting observations here. She points out (as did Hindrocket) that ABC News is now saying that they were only trying to say that the memo was distributed to Republicans, not by Republicans. Seeing as the headline on the ABC News site was "GOP Talking Points Memo", I find that distinction by them now hard to believe. And Malkin also points out that in a Seattle Times article with a Washington Post byline the story claims that the memo was passed out to Republicans by party leaders.

Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters has his insight on this matter here.

March 29, 2005

Second Interim Report on Oil for Food

The Second Interim Report on the Oil for Food Program produced by the Volker Commission is now out. This is the Kojo Annan part. It's interesting reading, but once again punts when it comes to Kofi Annan's culpability in anything connected to the Oil for Food Scandal. The report concludes that there was insufficient disinterested third party witnesses or documentation to prove that Kofi knew of his son's issues with Cotecna. But if you read the report, it certainly raises more questions than it answers.

Also, it concludes that "The United Nations' conflict of interest regulations do not prescribe adequate guidelines for identifying and resolving possible conflicts of interest." (p. 80 of 90) In other words, up until now, it has been a license to steal at the UN for the well-connected.

Whitewash, Part 2

What? Liberal Bias on Campus?

Here's a post from Stanley Kurtz on The Corner over at NRO:

"BAD NEWS ON CAMPUS [Stanley Kurtz]
As Tim noted, Howard Kurtz reports today on the latest empirical study of political bias on college campuses. The numbers are bad. According to Kurtz, college faculties “lean further to the left than even the most conspiratorial conservatives might have imagined.” I was especially struck by the 87 percent liberal versus 13 percent conservative division on elite campuses. I haven’t yet seen the original study, but it appears to include relatively conservative programs like engineering and business (although even these turned up as liberal on balance). Subtract those more conservative programs and humanities and social science faculties at elite schools would appear to be over ninety percent liberal. The study’s authors are cautious. They take these imbalances as “preliminary” evidence of “possible discrimination” against conservatives. Any conservative who’s been on a college campus lately knows the score on that one.

John Knight, director of academic freedom and tenure for the American Association of University Professors, was delegated the unenviable task of dismissing the survey. He pretends the faculty’s liberalism has nothing whatever to do with the curriculum. Yeah, right. Of course Knight, the man who supposedly safeguards academic freedom for all of us, neglects to mention that academic freedom exists to nurture and protect a marketplace of ideas. By that classic standard, real academic freedom no longer exists in the American academy.

Another important finding here is that the leftward drift has gotten far worse over time. Back in 1984, just a few years before Allan Bloom and William Bennett began the war against campus political correctness, 39 percent of faculty members described themselves as liberal. Today the figure is 72 percent (87 for elite schools). The actual content of the campus culture wars may not have changed much in 20 years, but the larger situation has changed. At this point, conservatives aren’t just outgunned on campus, they are almost entirely excluded–especially on elite campuses. Where is the next generation of conservative intellectuals going to come from?
Posted at 10:21 AM"

And Howard Kurtz's column at The Washington Post can be found here. Pretty remarkable stuff.

Ah, That Ward!

Well, the Ward gave a series of speeches in San Francisco this past weekend that were, well, interesting. Reporter Charlie Brennan of the Rocky Mountain News has a report here. For a more revealing summary of his speeches, I point you to this account on the Zombietime website (danger - foul language and symbols depicted here).

Read it and weep. This guy is a charlatan and a fraud. He admits during the speech that he doesn't even have a collage education. And he is worshiped by the left. This is what is wrong with higher education today - how many Wards are there really out there?

March 28, 2005

About Those Polls, er, Pols, er, Polls...

The Boss Squirrel has said before to aware polls, for they are strewn with bad acorns. Or something to that effect. Anyway(s), Michelle Malkin has an interesting autopsy of ABC News' recent poll on the starvation of Terri Sciavo here. Check out the questions. If that poll isn't designed to reach a particular conclusion, I don't know what is.

And Jim Boulet continues on NRO here:

"SALON, BULL MOOSE AND GROVER NORQUIST [Jim Boulet]

Today, Bull Moose (a blog) strongly endorses Grover Norquist's complaint about GOP involvement in the Schiavo case because of the results of opinion polls:

Advocates of using federal power to keep this woman alive need to seriously study the polling data that's come out on this," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, who has been talking to both social and economic conservatives about the fallout. "I think that a lot of conservative leaders assumed there was broader support for saying that they wanted to have the federal government save this woman's life."

The polling data has been questioned by Democratic Pollster Pat Caddell , who said of the CBS poll (the same poll Salon uses today to berate David Frum): "This poll is so basically designed to produce certain results, and then being reported as such, makes me very concerned. Now it could be just pure incompetence, however I suspect that there's more here than that." (Transcript courtesy of johnny dollar's place).

Michelle Malkin picks apart ABC's earlier poll here."

First, if Grover Norquist were in from of me I'd punch him. If you have people like Tom Harkin helping you lead the fight to save Terri Sciavo, it's not a conservative only issue. And if Norquist thinks that it was a calculated move by the conservative leaders to support such an attempt because of public opinion, then he's not as an astute observer of issues and values as I though he was.

Second, here is what Pat Caddell is talking about.

Johnny Dollar's Place is here.

( I wish Johnny Dollar well. This is the first conservative blog I've noticed that has been hosted on ".mac", using iBlog nonetheless. With Al Gore on the Apple Board of Directors, we'll see how long that lasts...)

I Hate It When I Don't Save a Post...

Just managed to jettison a fairly good post by not saving it and then hitting the wrong button...

Anyways, I'll try this again...

Some good stuff in the blogverse on the supposed "GOP talking points memo" on the Sciavo case that were supposedly handed out to GOP Senators during the debate. Everybody who originally reported on the story are being coy about bringing it up again the way they originally did (GOP memo). On The Weekly Standard site, John Hinderaker sums up what he has been reporting on the subject for the past week or so and Fred Barnes puts in his two cents worth.

Joshua Clayborn of the In the Agora Blog does some more reporting on the issue, including the tidbit that he has been told by GOP Senate staffers that the memo originated from Harry Reid's new Democratic Party Media War Room (which seems to confirm that the only report so far as to who was actually handing the memo out remains The New York Times, which reported that Democratic staffers were seen handing out the memo and saying "Do you see what the Republicans are doing?"). Michelle Malkin disagrees, saying that the Democrats would never be so obvious. Powerline disagrees with Malkin here. Interesting and fun back-and-forth.

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