George A. Sprecace M.D.,
J.D., F.A.C.P. and Allergy Associates of New
RESPONSE (Archives)...Daily Commentary on News of the Day
This is a new section. It will
quick reactions by myself to news and events of the day, day by day, in
this rapid-fire world of ours. Of course, as in military
a rapid response in one direction may occasionally have to be followed
by a "strategic withdrawal" in another direction. Charge that to
"the fog of war", and to the necessary flexibility any mental or
campaign must maintain to be effective. But the mission will
be the same: common sense, based upon facts and "real politick",
by a visceral sense of Justice and a commitment to be pro-active.
That's all I promise.
to return to the current Rapid Response list
THURSDAY, March 28 through 31, 2011
wrong is that,
although our Founding Fathers were among the best minds of that era in
they were not sufficiently clairvoyant to see how the country's
needs would change with massive and imaginable growth and success -
resources and its separation from the crazies of Europe.
The result: we now sorely need a Federal Constitutional
to bring our Federal governance in balance with our national
needs. Specifically, we need term limits; we need limits on
durations, on campaign funding and sources; we need strong powers of
powers to prosecute Fraud and Abuse in Office; we need to re-define
Administrative Law which governs the rule-making bureaucracy that is
wagging the dog. We also to reassert the intent of Amendment X of
Constitution. That's certainly enough to justify such a bold, if
action. What's much more risky to the future of this country is
now evolved in Washington, D.C.:our own Nomenclatura, our own
our own tin-pot Despots with titles like "Senator" and
"Honorable", protected by their own arcane and self-serving
"Rules" Our Ship of State is about to founder under the weight
of these accretions of barnacles.
SUNDAY, March 27, 2011
TRY...BUT NO CIGAR.
Here I make reference to an article, posted below in its entirety,
entitled "Obama: Style Is More Like
Ike Than JFK", by Ronald Brownstein, Mational Journal, Friday
March 25, 2011.
Mr. President, I grew up with Ike...and you're no Ike.
Two other references should be read in order to understand my
observations listed below:
Ike was born of a poor, pious,
close-knit family in Kansas. Obama's origins
are somewhat cloudy.
- "The Education of a President",
by Peter Baker, New York Times Magazine (Oct. 17, 2010, p40);
- "Eisenhower, Dwight David",
in Encyclopedia Britannica, 1969 Edition, pp98-102.
Ike graduated in the top third
of his class, and graduated #1 in the Command and General Staff School
in 1926. Obama's school
record has never been released, to my knowledge.
Ike was considered warm, gutsy,
gregarious. He had a genius for bringing men together, for
producing agreement out of conflict. by contrast: "More than any
President since Jimmy Carter, Obama comes
across as an Introvert, someone who finds extended contact with groups
of people outside his immediate circle to be draining"(Baker article,
Ike said "No" to politics in
1948; he agreed to a nomination for President in 1952 only if there was
"a clear-cut call". Obama was
running for President long before he was elected a State Senator in
Although Ike initially
resisted the concept of a strong executive in favor of Constitutional
division of powers, he soon learned the importance of Presidential
leadership in keeping the country strong and a leader in the world (see
the section entitled "The 'New' Eisenhower" in the Britannica
article). The "New Obama"
has not yet emerged. "...this style
has exposed Obama to charges of passivity, indecisiveness, and leading
from behind. The pattern has left even some of his supporters
uncertain whether he is shrewd - or timid" (see the Brownstein
Ike considered himself a
"President of all the people" and declined "to make of the Presidency
an agency to use in partisan elections". Obama has clearly been a partisan
Although Ike was always
concerned about "the little people", he was firmly Conservative and
worried about the growth of the Federal Government, especially about
its living beyond its means and promoting inflation. That
certainly does not sound like Obama's MO.
Ike articulated and had passed
by both Houses of Congress the "Eisenhower
Doctrine" relating to the spread of Communism in the Middle
East: a muscular and pro-active approach appropriate for the leader of
the free world. Watching the painful and serpentine course of Obama's inactions and actions in
Libya, can we hope for a comparably appropriate "Obama Doctrine"?
Considering 9/11 and world Islamic terrorism, the world is in at least
as much danger than during the decades of M.A.D.
What? You say that this is early in President Obama's term in office,
and that we should give him more time? I say: given the divided
state of this country and of the world, and given the new pace of
developments in this cyber-world, we cannot afford a learning curve
beyond 2012 for the most powerful and influential position in the
world. So, as used in many typing classes: NOW IS THE TIME FOR ALL
MEN TO COME TO THE AID OF THEIR COUNTRY.
In 2008, many of Barack Obama's supporters thought they might be
electing another John F. Kennedy. But his recent maneuvers increasingly
suggest that they selected another Dwight Eisenhower.
That's not a comment on President Obama's effectiveness or ideology,
but rather on his conception of presidential leadership. Whether he is
confronting the turmoil reshaping the Middle East or the escalating
budget wars in Washington, Obama most often uses a common set of
strategies to pursue his goals. Those strategies have less in common
with Kennedy's inspirational, public-oriented leadership than with the
muted, indirect, and targeted Eisenhower model that political scientist
Fred Greenstein memorably described as a "hidden hand" presidency.
This approach has allowed Obama to achieve many of his domestic and
international aims—from passing the health reform legislation that
marked its stormy first anniversary this week to encouraging Egypt's
peaceful transfer of power. But, like it did for Eisenhower, this style
has exposed Obama to charges of passivity, indecisiveness, and leading
from behind. The pattern has left even some of his supporters uncertain
whether he is shrewd—or timid.
On most issues, Obama has
consciously chosen not to make himself the fulcrum. He has identified
broad goals but has generally allowed others to take the public lead,
waited until the debate has substantially coalesced, and only then
announced a clear, visible stand meant to solidify consensus. He
appears to believe he can most often exert maximum leverage toward the
end of any process—an implicit rejection of the belief that a
president's greatest asset is his ability to define the choices for the
country (and the world).
presidency: Obama's focus on economy tested by Libya, Japan)
To the extent that Obama shapes processes along the way, he tends to
do so offstage rather than in public. Throughout, he has shown an
unswerving resistance to absolutist public pronouncements and grand
theories. "The modus operandi is quiet, behind-the-scenes
consensus-building, rather than out-front, bold leadership," said Ken
Duberstein, a former chief of staff for Ronald Reagan.
All of these instincts are apparent in Obama's response to the
Middle East tumult. He has approached each uprising as a blank slate
that demands new assessments and recalibrated policies: Even in the
deserts of the Middle East, he resists drawing lines in the sand.
Bahrain, an ally, receives quiet exhortation. In Libya, Obama speaks
with cruise missiles. "Each of these cases presents a different set of
circumstances," a senior national-security official insists. "The
distinction between this and the previous administration is, we're not
trying to sweep this all into one grand, oversimplified theory …
without understanding the context."
A common thread throughout Obama's responses has been his belief
that the U.S. image across the region is so toxic that it could
undermine the change it seeks by embracing it too closely. "We can't
have this be our agenda," the senior official says. In Egypt, Obama
deferred to local protesters; in Libya, he allowed France and England
to drive the international debate toward military intervention—and only
publicly joined them once the Arab League had signed on.
map: Unrest in N. Africa, Mideast)
By stepping back, Obama has effectively denied the region's
autocrats the opportunity to discredit indigenous demands for change as
a U.S. plot. But this strategy has led to delay, mixed messages, and
his unilateral renunciation of the weapon of ringing rhetorical
inspiration: There's been no Kennedyesque "Ich bin ein Berliner" moment
The president has shown similar instincts on domestic issues,
especially since Republicans captured the House. On health care reform
last year, he prodded the process but mostly let Democratic
congressional leaders direct the internal party negotiations. Today,
Obama has remained aloof from a bipartisan Senate group laboring to
convert the recommendations of his deficit-reduction commission into
legislation. Many around that group (including commission Cochairmen
Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles) believe that the president may still
endorse the effort, but only if it first garners broad bipartisan
Obama's case for delaying intervention into the deficit discussion
parallels the administration's logic about the Middle East strategy:
Because the domestic debate is so polarized, Republicans might feel
compelled to oppose the Simpson-Bowles plan if Obama preemptively
adopted it. By reducing his profile upfront, he can broaden his
coalition in the end.
That logic is probably right but hardly cost-free. This week, a
large bipartisan Senate group warned the president that no deficit
agreement may get far enough for him to bless unless he moves more
aggressively to build public support for action. Even if a plan
emerges, by delaying his involvement, Obama risks being forced to
choose among options largely defined by others.
of Libya operation already piling up)
In foreign policy as well, the most pointed criticism of Obama's
style is that it leaves him reacting to events rather than shaping
them—and, frequently, reacting only after costly hesitation. The
president's approach carries another big cost: His desire to maintain
flexibility for private deal-making often dulls his ability to mobilize
popular support by drawing clear contrasts. (See: health care.)
Yet at home and abroad, Obama consistently achieves many of his
goals. Can a "hidden hand" presidency thrive in the 24/7 information
maelstrom? Obama is testing the proposition.
This article appeared in the Saturday, March 26, 2011 edition of
SATURDAY, March 26, 2011
NOW...THE MODERN HOLOCAUST
What else can we call a nation-wide, systematic and intentional
destruction of individuals for the sole reason that they exist and are
"inconvenient" to the majority of their fellow human beings? Now
add to that scenario the fact that the majority of those victims are of
one ethnic group. What do you have? The abomination of ABORTION is what you have, where
over 90,000 individuals were killed in New York City alone in 2010 -
and where the large majority of those were Black babies. As has
been pointed out elsewhere, the most dangerous place for a Black person
to be is in the womb. And if those persons were as visible as
Blacks were during the hundreds of years of slavery in this country, we
would already have had a second Civil War.
Of all the most serious and divisive problems facing this country at
this time, the most corrosive one, and the one most responsible for the
seeming intractability of those problems is societal division over
Abortion. Because it is the one most likely to engender contempt
and even hatred between and among citizens on both sides of that issue
- and of many other issues by extension.
That need not be. What is needed, besides a new realization of
the primacy of Natural Law and a return to prayer, is elimination of
the illegal involvement of the Federal government in the question via
Roe v Wade and its progeny, and a return of the question to the States
in this Republic. Barring that action, this country has entered a
permanent period of Decline and Fall. It need not be.
FRIDAY, March 25, 2011
There recently was a death of a 98 year-old lady
During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the
Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist.
She had an 'ulterior motive'.
She KNEW what the Nazi's plans were for the Jews
Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool
box she carried and she carried in the back of her truck a burlap sack,
(for larger kids).
She also had a dog in the back that she trained to
bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto.
The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the
dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.
During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle
out and save 2500 kids/infants.
She was caught, and the Nazi's broke both her legs,
arms and beat her severely.
Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she
smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her
After the war, she tried to locate any parents that
may have survived it and reunited the family.
Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got
placed into foster family homes or adopted.
Last year Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize.
She was not selected.
President Obama won one year before becoming
President for his work as a community organizer for ACORN and Al Gore
won also--- for a slide show on Global Warming.
In MEMORIUM - 63 years later
MONDAY through THURSDAY, March 21
through 24, 2011
CAMEL: A HORSE DESIGNED BY COMMITTEE".
That's the political creature currently lumbering across the Libyan
desert and coastline, thanks to the studied abandonment of leadership
embraced by President Obama and by his far-left leaning advisers.
And even some Republicans, looking in the rear-view mirror instead of
paying attention to the road before them, are questioning our role
there...and throughout the world. Shame on them.
Listen Up, Folks:
President Obama, how you handle this opportunity in the Middle East at
this moment...and its implications for the future safety of this
nation, will be your entire legacy - for good or ill. Please WAKE
- What happened in Tunisia, what happened in Egypt, what is
happening in the entire Middle East...and what is happening in
Libya...are of historic proportions. In a region that for 1,400
years has been dominated by despotic and tribal leadership, this having
led directly to its current backward, fundamentalist / terrorist and
very dangerous state vis a vis the rest of the world, there is finally
an awakening especially among its large and growing younger
populations. There is a new awareness of both the potentials of
democracy and of the benefits of following the lessons of American
- The problem with the Middle East is Fundamentalist Islam.
The solution is Moderate Islam, the only movement that can avoid an
otherwise inevitable World War lll with the West.
- Here is the moment for strengthening the hand and the will of
Moderate Muslims as against the festering boil of Fundamentalism in
their midst and in our global future.
- Thus, America must be on the right side of this conflict, already
seen and welcomed by the freedom fighters in the streets throughout the
Middle East. It must not be seen, by action or inaction, as a
continuing supporter of despots and their oil.
- That's why the full-fledged support of the Libyan peoples'
efforts against their despot - and in the overthrow of that despot -
are most definitely in the vital self-interest of the United
- In such a situation, we welcome support from our allies and from
anyone else; but we have an obligation to act definitively in our
SUNDAY, March 20, 2011
This offering should be considered as
a follow-up to the March 3, 2011, posting below...
Here's what I posted, under the name
'Clarity', after the article:
The shameless displays of shouting down
opposing viewpoints, directly threatening physical violence on fellow
assembly members, and generally thuggish behavior by unions and their
supporters in Wisconsin should be a wake-up call to the entire
country. It proves that public sector unions and the Democratic
politicians in their pockets will do all that they can to keep this
playing field soundly tilted in their favor. And, once and for
all, let's put to bed this ridiculous stereotype of the
mustache-twisting, gold watch-spinning corporate fat cat who pours
money into the coffers of ONLY Republican politicians. Large
business interests are interested in one thing--profit. However,
the largest contributor to the tax base, small businesses, are the ones
who suffer under the weight of decades of totally unrealistic promises
to public sector unions that can no longer be funded. Big
business donates to BOTH parties, depending on who can get them the
most. But, since most of the Democratic pols are bought and paid
for by huge union donations, big business ends up donating
more to Republicans.
Getting back to profit, who the hell
doesn't want to make a profit? I'm sure the unions pore over
their salary and benefit tables before their collective bargaining
meetings so they can negotiate a zero-sum game. Please.
And, stop whining that you're fighting
to preserve weekends and safe working conditions for your
children. What a steaming load. Everything that unions
righteously and properly fought for and received since circa 1880 has
made its way into the legal and cultural foundation of this
country. Anyone who would try to thwart such basic aspects of the
management/labor relationship would be crushed under the weight of
opposition from voters of all stripes.
Contrary to popular belief in the
Wisconsin state house currently under siege, collective bargaining by
state workers is NOT a God-given right that must be enjoyed until the
end of time. It started, ironically enough, in Wisconsin only 50
years ago. Even the God of Gods in the world of the Left, FDR,
refused to allow Federal government workers to collectively
bargain. This situation exists to this moment on the Federal
level. Why are you not holding the White House hostage to club
even more taxpayers over the head to pay for laughably-lopsided and
opportunistic wage and benefit demands? Speaking of which, thank
you SOOOO much, Wisconsin state employees, for sacrificing so much of
your income to pay for a measly 6% of YOUR pension and 12%
of YOUR healthcare--up from ZERO.2% and 6%, respectively.
Most people in the private sector, even WITH benefits, pay AT LEAST 50%
of their pension and healthcare. What do you say to that, you
Most importantly, let's not forget the
fact that what is going on in WI, OH, IN, MI, and eventually CA, deals
with PUBLIC sector unions, NOT private sector unions. A previous
post nailed this point. If a widget is priced too high EITHER
because management demands too much profit OR because labor demands too
much compensation, the widget company folds. The current state
employee benefit system (once again, enacted in the late 50's, starting
in good ol' Wisconsin) doesn't allow, legally or logistically, for
these "companies" to simply fold. Are you listening? If you
continue to squeeze this golden goose, you will squeeze the life out of
it. Do you understand? Stop looking like jack-asses trying
to make it appear that without you, we'd all be under the collective
thumb of latter-day robber barons.
Sorry, all you "Progressives" out
there. Not sexy, dramatic, or reactively emotional (which I know
is your favorite method of expression), but all true. Easy,
now. I can see the smoke coming out of your collective ears.
FRIDAY through SATURDAY, March 11
through 19, 2011
ANOTHER EDITION OF "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 OPINIONS".
- Japan. What a tragedy, although mitigated by the Japanese
preparedness for such natural disasters. Our prayers go with
these good people who, truth be acknowledged, were terribly led in
the years leading to WW ll by their own military, resulting
in having "awakened a sleeping giant". But, as the nuclear
disaster unfolded in the erly days, my first thought was: given the
central importance of keeping the fuel cells cool with water, why was
there not a great redundancy in mechanisms to achieve this? Now
we read that those reactors may have been under-designed - perhaps by
our own GE engineers - partly to save money (of course). We also
read that reactors like the Millstone complex in Connecticut and
many others in America do have those redundancies: diesel and other
generators to maintain needed water flow in case of disruption of the
electric grid. As is so often the case, it is not technology that
attacks us (so far), but the stupidity and avarice of human
- Pakistan. In a peverse way, it is good to see that the U.S.
and Pakistan are "engaged": at each other's throats, to be sure, but
engaged nevertheless. Witness the recent and continuing disputes
between our CIA and their intelligence services over the conduct of
U.S. covert activities in that part of the world. As with a
married couple unable to afford a divorce, "engagement" is good.
- India, by contrast, is taking China's place - at least in my mind
- as "an enigma within a puzzle...." India should be our greatest
friend in the Far East, next to Japan. What's going on there,
besides the India - Pakistan - Afghanistan Trifecta, as
- China is no longer an enigma. We know what we are dealing
with there: a very powerful and growing economic and military force
whose only saving grace to us is their reliable pragmatism.
- Russia, on the other hand, is as always erratic and unreliable:
always happy to fish in our troubled waters. Too bad. We
could be great allies for peace in the world. But Vladimir Putin
prefers to bare his chest and to dump selected opponents in well-staged
karate matches. Kool-Aid or Vodka: same difference.
- Afghanistan. Now even General Petraeus has joined the
unattractive ranks of our many politician - generals, concerned more
with getting along than with getting it right. His recent
statements regarding our efforts in that benighted country belie the
obvious facts: we are losing, or have lost, to the Taliban and to the
people by our half-hearted efforts and by our inconstancy of
purpose. America has given the message loud and clear to the
people of the world that we cannot be trusted beyond an economic
Quarter or a presidential election. That was never more true than
with the present Obama administration. What a national
shame. And we wil pay dearly for that in the future.
- Iran: a festering boil about to explode into a sepsis throughout
the Middle East. And what are we doing about that?
- The rest of the Arab / Muslim Middle East, with its
Fundamentalist / crazies, its Sunnis vs Shia, its Whahabi vs Salafi
sects....what a mess. As I have said many times before in this
section and elsewhere: Fundamentalist Islam is the Problem...and
Moderate Islam is the solution. Otherwise, we are headed for WW
lll within a decade.
- Israel. Talk about a bad marriage; specifically the current
one with the current Israeli leadership. They certainly never
adhere to the maxim: "He who seeks equity must do equity". But
don't push too far: we Americans have our limits if pushed too far by a
leadership that becomes a renegade and a dangerous liability to the
peace of America and the world. Be reasonable.
- "The West". Certainly not a monolith, with each nation
doing its own thing and united only in its regular chastisement of the
U.S. But "Who loves you, Baby?"
- The U.N. Need I say more? How about @#$%^&*(?
- Domestically, America's problem is now the Obama administration,
elected in a national hypnotic dream-state and with the aid of the
Republican Party's self-destructive bent. After the election, I
determined to give President Obama some time to show me
something. He has. He must be a one-term President.
The country will not civilly tolerate another six years of the current
divisions in our basic national fabric. Liberals, of course, will
vehemently disagree...but they are uneducable. The Independents
and Republicans and all other concerned Americans must rise to this
challenge...beginning now. "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?"
THURSDAY, March 10, 2011
STATE VS PRIVATE SECTOR EMPLOYMENT. GS
Perrin, another example of 2+2=5...and for the same reason, I
think: political correctness of the authors. See my critique of
Nicholas Kristof's recent article on Islam, on my RR. Bottom
line: State workers get overall better compensation packages and fringe
benefits...and especially much more job security...than workers in
private industry. And all they have to do is keep electing
Democrats to the legislature. It's a win-win between those two
How stupid can people be, you ask. Very stupid, especially within
the last generations...present company excluded, of course. Dad
State vs. private pay is a
By Kenton Robinson
Publication: The Day
Published 03/06/2011 12:00 AM
Updated 03/06/2011 12:04 AM
There is a widespread perception that
state employees are better paid and have better benefits than workers
in the private sector.
Certainly, if one were to look at one raw
and simple number - the total compensation package received by the
average state worker compared with that of the average private sector
employee - there would seem to be a vast disparity between the two.
The average state employee's annual
compensation, including salary and benefits, is $105,498, compared with
$74,174 for the average worker in the private sector, according to a
December report produced by the state Commission on Enhancing Agency
Outcomes, a task force formed under the former administration to
streamline state government.
The problem with that approach is that
the average state worker is a different animal than the average private
The state government has a
disproportionate number of doctors, nurses, professors, teachers,
computer technicians and lawyers who are older and better educated than
the average private sector worker.
"Unfortunately the commission did not do
the best of work on this issue," said William J. Cibes Jr., the former
secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management under Gov.
Lowell P. Weicker and a member of the commission.
"When you control for age and education,
public sector employees are older and much more well educated," Cibes
About 33 percent of Connecticut's state
employees have an advanced degree beyond college, compared with 13.4
percent in the private sector, according to the Political Economy
Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts. And their median
age is 44, versus 41 in the private sector.
Other studies confirm this. A report
released last month by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in
Washington showed that nationwide the vast majority of state employees
are teachers, professors, health professionals and police and
firefighters. That translates into higher salaries and benefits.
When one looks at the issue job by job,
it becomes clear that those on the lower end of the scale earn more
working for the state than they would in the private sector, and those
on the upper end earn less working for the state.
So, for example, the median pay for an
office clerk working for the state is $42,254 compared with $29,904 for
a clerk working in the private sector. On the other hand, a professor
of computer science earns $62,620 working for the state, while his or
her counterpart in a private school has an annual salary of $86,521,
according to the state Office of Legislative Research.
"Public employee compensation is not
grossly out of line with the private sector," Cibes said, "and at the
high end of the scale, the public sector is lower than the private
In Connecticut, those at the bottom of
the ladder earn about 3.8 percent more than their counterparts in the
private sector, while those at the top earn about 5.5 percent less,
according to the Political Economy Research Institute at UMass.
Public employees made 'villains'
The OPM secretary, who has overseen
construction of the budget for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy that seeks $1
billion a year in concessions from state employees, agrees with Cibes.
"It's a much different mix than the
overall workforce. We have a lot of teachers, college professors and
voc-ed teachers, and they are being paid on master's degrees and
doctorates. ... When you look at many of the case workers at the state
Department of Children and Families, they are going to have college
degrees or some level of higher education," said Benjamin Barnes,
Malloy's budget chief.
"So I'm kind of reluctant to accept an
overall statement, especially within the context of what's going on in
Wisconsin and Ohio," he said.
Union leaders agree.
"I think that we're in a dangerous debate
right now in which public employees have been made villains for the
economic downturn," said Larry Dorman, spokesman for the State
Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), which is negotiating with
the governor's budget people. "And I think that's neither truthful nor
helpful to get the economy moving again. It's a dangerous path when you
attack one group of workers because they have decent health care,
pensions and family-supporting jobs."
Instead, the unions think the state
should raise the taxes on the wealthy.
"Middle-class workers spend money on Main
Street," Dorman said. "Hedge fund managers spend it overseas."
The state is required to make payments
exceeding $5.4 billion a year to compensate state employees and
retirees, a figure that represents about 25 percent of the state's
general fund budget. A billion dollar cut would represent nearly 20
percent of that.
But when Malloy conducted one of his
"town meetings" at New London's Jennings School Wednesday, he
reiterated that, from his point of view, there is no alternative.
"I've made it very clear that we have to
get to this agreement. Otherwise, our options are to lay off thousands
and thousands of people and to gut the safety net. That's what we're
looking at. Because I've made it very clear: We cannot raise taxes $3.3
billion, nor can we cut $3.3 billion out of this budget as it currently
Some possible cuts
Neither Malloy nor Barnes, however, would
discuss specifics, as the state Office of Labor Relations began talking
with union representatives Wednesday. Both sides have agreed not to
discuss the content of those talks with the media.
But a look at some of the benefits that
accrue to state workers, and a report completed by the state
Post-Employment Benefits Commission in October, suggest some directions
the state might go.
For example, the average state employee
contributes 11 percent of the cost of his or her health insurance,
compared with the 21 percent contributed by the average private
employee. Malloy has suggested changing state employees' health
benefits package for an estimated $100 million in savings.
Comparing retirement benefits is more
complicated, as the state employee pension system consists of three
"tiers," with different contributions and benefits, depending on when
the worker started working for the state. The first tier provides the
most generous benefits; the second two provide less and require a
larger contribution from the employee.
About 14,000 state employees make no
contributions to their pension plans, according to the benefits
commission. Another 18,315 make a 2 percent contribution.
If employees contributed an additional 1
percent toward their retirement, it would total about $32 million.
Also, the state could save another $135 million by raising the
retirement age - currently 55, 60 or 62, depending on when one began
working for the state.
State retirees also receive a minimum of
a 2.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment to their total salaries each
year, and, depending on the Consumer Price Index, can receive as much
as 6 percent, a perk unknown to many in the private sector.
Pensions are calculated on the employee's
"final average salary," which is the person's three highest-paid years,
and several panels have warned that this policy encourages "spiking,"
in which employees work a lot of overtime in their last three years to
drive up that figure.
"That's an area that really needs to be
controlled," Cibes said. "I think it's also reasonable to lengthen the
period to a five-year average instead of three-year average."
Also, retiring state employees can "cash
out" up to 120 unused vacation days and up to 60 unused sick days,
another benefit not common in the private sector.
Another benefit state employees receive
that their brethren in the private sector don't: longevity payments.
Both managers and union members get them and, in 2009, about 35,000
managers and employees received them.
For union employees these are flat
amounts, paid twice a year, for long-term employees depending on their
length of service.
The typical range of payments is from $75
to $499 twice a year for workers with 10 to 14 years of service.
The amounts go up for 15 to 19 years of
service, 20 to 25 years of service and for more than 25 years of
service, at which point the payments range from $300 to $1,938 twice a
The total cost of longevity payments to
state employees is about $36.6 million a year, according to the
Malloy has suggested a couple of other
possibilities: Impose a two-year wage freeze to save nearly $300
million, and require state employees to take furloughs, saving $80
"We're looking at everything," Barnes
said. "All parts of compensation we're taking a look at."
|Up and down
|How does the compensation of state employees
compare to employees in the private sector? A lot depends on the job.
Persons in jobs requiring less education tend to do better working for
the state; persons with advanced training and degrees do worse. Here
are some examples.
|Home care aides
|LPNs & LVNs
|Computer science professors
|Note: When it comes to the
state's top jobs, commissioners make a lot less than CEOs in the
private sector. So, for example, the state's social services
commissioner, who heads up a multibillion dollar agency, earns $166,980
a year, compared to, say, the CEO of Cigna, who takes in $6,593,921 a
|Sources: The state Office of
Legislative Research, the state Department of Labor and company
Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
WEDNESDAY, March 9, 2011
in place, as fast as they can. GS
No-fly zone may have limited impact
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama's top
national security aides emerged from private talks Wednesday with a
growing sense that imposing a no-fly zone over Libya would have a
"limited impact" on halting the kind of violence raging in the North
African nation, senior administration officials said.
That position, sure to shape the
international debate about potential military intervention in Libya,
came as Obama's principal security aides reviewed potential
recommendations for the president during a White House Situation Room
The officials underscored that the
creation of a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace was not off the table
from the U.S. perspective if the facts on the ground change, chiefly
Moammar Gadhafi's use of air power to attack the rebels threatening his
grip on power.
The administration maintains that
planning for such intervention should continue, particularly at a
pivotal NATO meeting in Brussels of defense chiefs on Thursday, and
that the no-fly zone also remains in consideration as a way to increase
pressure on Gadhafi.
Yet for now, the no-fly zone option is
not seen as having high impact in ending the violence, said the
officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity
because of the sensitivity of the private strategy discussions.
The officials familiar with the meeting
would not elaborate.
But other officials have noted that the
no-fly zone tactic may be ineffective in part because Gadhafi appears
to be using his planes sparingly in his crackdown on rebels. Military
experts say the use of jets by Gadhafi loyalists poses less of a threat
than the deployment of attack helicopters, which can get around flight
prohibitions because they are harder to detect.
Even before Wednesday's talks, the Obama
administration has had little enthusiasm for military intervention in
Libya or for the no-fly zone in particular. Defense Secretary Robert
Gates has said that beginning the flights would require an assault on
Libyan air defenses, a step tantamount to war. And Obama officials have
consistently warned of the costs and the risks.
In order to ground the Libyan air force —
thereby providing air cover for the rebels — U.S. and partner aircraft
would first attack Libya's anti-aircraft defenses. Freed of the threat
of being shot down, U.S. and partner planes could then patrol Libya's
air space and down any planes that got airborne.
The prospect of a no-fly zone has come to
dominate attention even as the White House has consistently held that
it is just one option that could be used to try to protect civilians
and pressuring Gadhafi to give up power. Obama says he will not be
"hamstrung" by ruling out options but has never publicly given it the
attention in this crisis that other world leaders have.
Obama did not attend Wednesday's meeting,
and the White House said no action was imminent. Officials set no
"We're not at a decision point," Obama's
spokesman, Jay Carney, said as the White House sought hard to inject
perspective into a fast-changing conflict.
Gadhafi's forces pounded rebels with
artillery and gunfire in at least two major cities on Wednesday, adding
more pressure on nations and international bodies to figure out what to
do — and whether they can agree.
The NATO alliance said it was planning
for any eventuality in the Libyan crisis. But with Gates preparing to
join Thursday's NATO meeting to discuss military options, there was
little sign they would agree to set up a no-fly zone.
The United States held to its right to
show its military might unilaterally, including potential naval
maneuvers closer to Libyan shores. But Obama's admonition for
international action — not go-it-alone-force — remains a driving
principle of any military intervention.
That approach offers broader legitimacy
and shared burden, but also more complicated politics.
"We believe it's important that this not
be an American or a NATO or a European effort; it needs to be an
international one," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said
Wednesday on CBS. She conceded divisions within the United Nations
Security Council but said that a "good, solid international package"
was being considered.
Obama's aides cast the Situation Room
meeting as one in a series of discussions as the president's top
security advisers sought to rally around recommendations for him.
Carney said he did not want to even
suggest that more action will be taken. He offered a broad defense of
what the United States has already done on its own and with the United
Nations in response to the crisis, from freezing assets to imposing
sanctions, and insisted no such response has ever happened faster.
Still, the deepening and bloody standoff
in Libya, combined with Obama's tough declaration that Gadhafi must go,
has kept the pressure on the president to do more.
Gadhafi has seized the momentum,
battering the rebels with airstrikes and artillery fire and repulsing
their westward march toward the capital, Tripoli.
A no-fly zone has become the best-known
response option and the one that European allies, in particular,
consider an effective international response.
Britain and France are pushing for the
U.N. to create a no-fly zone over the country, and while the U.S. may
be persuaded to sign on, such a move is unlikely to win the backing of
veto-wielding Security Council members Russia and China, which
traditionally object to such steps as infringements on national
"There are individuals and countries
within the UN who question the efficacy of a no-fly zone, the need for
a no-fly zone, what it would entail. I think those are somewhat
justified questions," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
"We're still evaluating the option." Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General
Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters Wednesday that "NATO is not
looking to intervene in Libya."
He said the alliance, however, was doing
the planning for "all eventualities." The NATO chief said the alliance
will extend its surveillance of Libya's coastal area by keeping an
airborne warning and control plane on patrol 24 hours a day, seven days
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell
indicated Wednesday that the U.S. was unlikely to make a decision this
week on any military action.
U.S. military officials are providing
Obama with options that can range from humanitarian assistance and a
show of force to war-fighting tactics. Military action could include
creating and enforcing the no-fly zone, using Air and Navy forces in
the region to jam and take out Libya's air defenses, and ramping up
intelligence and surveillance in the region.
There are at least five major U.S.
warships in the Mediterranean, including the USS Kearsarge with its
Marine contingent on board. And there are Air Force fighters, bombers,
tankers and electronic warfare aircraft easily available from bases in
Germany, England and Italy.
MONDAY and TUESDAY, March 7 and 8, 2011
OBAMA, YOU ARE AWOL.
As predicted by me in this section shortly after the last Presidential
election, Barack Obama's Presidency is looking more and more like
that of Jimmy Carter...with the added feature of the ever-present
teleprompters. Carter was an articulate micro-manager who missed
the forest for the trees - and so is Obama. Carter had his
Hostage Crisis - and it looks like Obama will have his Libya.
Even Bill Clinton, master of the "wet finger in the air
politics", now states that his greatest regret is not having intervened
earlier in the Balkans. Barack Obama is a basketball player who
constantly throws air-balls.
Mr. President, you are President of
the United States, not of NATO and certainly not of that
good-for-nothing congregation of world-class cynics and hypocrites -
Wake Up! Don't just stand there...intervene now with
enough power to insure the success of the revolt of the people of Libya
against yet another homicidal maniac. Meanwhile, you are AWOL.
SUNDAY, March 6, 2011
A COMMENTARY AND A COMMENT:
- Contrary to my ringing endorsement of Charles Krauthammer's work,
I must take issue with the article by Nicholas D. Kristof entitled "Is Islam The Problem" (NYTimes
Sunday, March 6, 2011, pWK 11. After giving a valuable review of
the last 900 years of Middle East history under Islam, centuries of
stagnation after having been a cradle of civilization, the author
arrives at: 2+2=5. "Islam
isn't the problem and it isn't the solution, it's simply a
religion...." Wrong! Fundamentalist
Islam is the problem; and Moderate Islam is the solution. Indeed,
moderate Muslims must themselves solve their problem if the world is to
avoid World War lll.
- And then we have our President,
whose mantra in dealing with current world crises seems to
be: "Don't just do something.
Stand there...while I check things out with the U.N". And what
is his definition of a "massacre"?
I truly hope for a one-term Presidency...but not this way.
SATURDAY, March 5, 2011
If you are reading these Rapid Response
offerings from me, you certainly should be reading regularly the
offerings of Charles Krauthammer, locally
and wisely offered in The Day (www.theday.com). Dr. Krauthammer is
articulate, very knowledgeable and spot-on with his insights. He
makes my self-appointed task in this section a great deal easier.
His most recent column sets the current unrest in the Middle East in
the context of developments of the last ten years in that region: "Road From Baghdad to Benghazi",
The Day Saturday, March 5, pA7.
PLEASE KEEP INFORMED...AND GET INVOLVED. "This is your life".
FRIDAY, March 4, 2011
WE ARE ENTERING "THE TWILIGHT ZONE". GS
Decline of U.S. Naval Power
Sixty ships were commonly underway in America's
seaward approaches in 1998, but today there are only 20. We are
abdicating our role on the oceans.
By MARK HELPRIN
Last week, pirates attacked and executed four
Americans in the Indian Ocean. We and the Europeans have endured
literally thousands of attacks by the Somali pirates without taking the
initiative against their vulnerable boats and bases even once. Such
paralysis is but a symptom of a sickness that started some time ago.
The 1968 film, "2001: A Space Odyssey," suggested
that in another 30 years commercial flights to the moon,
extraterrestrial mining, and interplanetary voyages would be routine.
Soon the United States would send multiple missions to the lunar
surface, across which astronauts would speed in vehicles. If someone
born before Kitty Hawk's first flight would shortly after retirement
see men riding around the moon in an automobile, it was reasonable to
assume that half again as much time would bring progress at a similarly
It didn't work out that way. In his 1962 speech at
Rice University, perhaps the high-water mark of both the American
Century and recorded presidential eloquence, President Kennedy framed
the challenge not only of going to the moon but of sustaining American
exceptionalism and this country's leading position in the world. He was
assassinated a little more than a year later, and in subsequent decades
American confidence went south.
Not only have we lost our enthusiasm for the
exploration of space, we have retreated on the seas. Up to 30 ships,
the largest ever constructed, each capable of carrying 18,000
containers, will soon come off the ways in South Korea. Not only will
we neither build, own, nor man them, they won't even call at our ports,
which are not large enough to receive them. We are no longer exactly
the gem of the ocean. Next in line for gratuitous abdication is our
Separated by the oceans from sources of raw materials
in the Middle East, Africa, Australia and South America, and from
markets and manufacture in Europe, East Asia and India, we are in
effect an island nation. Because 95% and 90% respectively of U.S. and
world foreign trade moves by sea, maritime interdiction is the quickest
route to both the strangulation of any given nation and chaos in the
international system. First Britain and then the U.S. have been the
guarantors of the open oceans. The nature of this task demands a large
blue-water fleet that simply cannot be abridged.
Forty percent of the world's population lives within
range of modern naval gunfire, and more than two-thirds within easy
reach of carrier aircraft.
With the loss of a large number of important bases
world-wide, if and when the U.S. projects military power it must do so
most of the time from its own territory or the sea. Immune to political
cross-currents, economically able to cover multiple areas,
hypoallergenic to restive populations, and safe from insurgencies, the
fleets are instruments of undeniable utility in support of allies and
response to aggression. Forty percent of the world's population lives
within range of modern naval gunfire, and more than two-thirds within
easy reach of carrier aircraft. Nothing is better or safer than naval
power and presence to preserve the often fragile reticence among
nations, to protect American interests and those of our allies, and to
prevent the wars attendant to imbalances of power and unrestrained
And yet the fleet has been made to wither even in
time of war. We have the smallest navy in almost a century, declining
in the past 50 years to 286 from 1,000 principal combatants. Apologists
may cite typical postwar diminutions, but the ongoing 17% reduction
from 1998 to the present applies to a navy that unlike its wartime
predecessors was not previously built up. These are reductions upon
reductions. Nor can there be comfort in the fact that modern ships are
more capable, for so are the ships of potential opponents. And even if
the capacity of a whole navy could be packed into a small number of
super ships, they could be in only a limited number of places at a
time, and the loss of just a few of them would be catastrophic.
The overall effect of recent erosions is illustrated
by the fact that 60 ships were commonly underway in America's seaward
approaches in 1998, but today—despite opportunities for the
infiltration of terrorists, the potential of weapons of mass
destruction, and the ability of rogue nations to sea-launch
intermediate and short-range ballistic missiles—there are only 20.
As China's navy rises and ours declines, not that far
in the future the trajectories will cross. Rather than face this, we
seduce ourselves with redefinitions such as the vogue concept that we
can block with relative ease the straits through which the strategic
materials upon which China depends must transit. But in one blink this
would move us from the canonical British/American control of the sea to
the insurgent model of lesser navies such as Germany's in World Wars I
and II and the Soviet Union's in the Cold War. If we cast ourselves as
insurgents, China will be driven even faster to construct a navy that
can dominate the oceans, a complete reversal of fortune.
The United Sates Navy need not follow the Royal Navy
into near oblivion. We have five times the population and almost six
times the GDP of the U.K., and unlike Britain we were not exhausted by
the great wars and their debt, and we neither depended upon an empire
for our sway nor did we lose one.
Despite its necessity, deficit reduction is not the
only or even the most important thing. Abdicating our more than
half-century stabilizing role on the oceans, neglecting the military
balance, and relinquishing a position we are fully capable of holding
will bring tectonic realignments among nations—and ultimately more
expense, bloodletting, and heartbreak than the most furious deficit
hawk is capable of imagining. A technological nation with a GDP of $14
trillion can afford to build a fleet worthy of its past and sufficient
to its future. Pity it if it does not.
Mr. Helprin, a senior fellow at the Claremont
Institute, is the author of, among other works, "Winter's Tale"
(Harcourt), "A Soldier of the Great War" (Harcourt) and, most recently,
"Digital Barbarism" (HarperCollins).
THURSDAY, March 3, 2011
WISCONSIN. THIS IS "WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT,
Analysis: The real stakes in
By MIKE MURPHY Mike Murphy – Thu Mar 3, 11:20 am ET
If you don't look too closely, the battle lines between
Wisconsin's Republican governor, Scott Walker, and his state's public
employees' unions seem to be clearly drawn. Walker wants public
employees to pay more toward their health care and retirement benefits,
while teachers and public workers howl that Walker's plan to curb most
collective bargaining is a malicious plot to bust up their unions.
Of course neither side wants to discuss what is really at
stake in this battle: the public-sector unions are fighting for their
shady ability to take millions of dollars from their members' dues
money without really asking, and the governor is not really owning up
to his ambition to smash the political power of public employees'
unions to smithereens. (See TIME's photo-essay "Showdown in Wisconsin.")
The stakes are rising because, if Walker succeeds, other
swing states with newly elected Republican governors, such as Ohio and
Michigan, could follow. A growing movement by cash-strapped states to
limit the political clout of public-sector unions would bring
disastrous results, not only for the unions but for every Democratic
candidate eyeing the 2012 ballot, from local officials all the way up
to Barack Obama.
Walker has a strong case on the fiscal merits. The cost of
state employees' benefits has skyrocketed in tandem with the rising
power of public employees' unions. It has become a perverse and
semicorrupt arrangement: the unions raise millions from dues, which are
then used to elect labor-friendly politicians who cave at the
contract-negotiating table, especially on long-term employment deals,
whose cost really begins to crush the state or city budget in the years
after the agreeable politician has left office. This is where
public-sector unions lack the moral authority of their private-sector
brethren. When the United Steelworkers negotiate with a steel company,
they don't also control the company's board of directors. (Who's to
blame in Wisconsin?)
Few Americans understand how the public-employee-union
money machine works. Many unionized state and local public workers have
their dues automatically deducted from their paychecks. On average, a
teacher in Wisconsin pays more than $1,000 per year to the union (from
an average salary of $51,264). A decent chunk of this money is used to
fund political activities. That doesn't mean just making contributions.
It also means running lavish independent ad campaigns in support of
their chosen candidates and against their opponents. Even Democratic
candidates who oppose union priorities can face massively funded
negative campaigns targeting them in primaries. Engaging in such
well-funded political activity is the unions' right, of course, but
their immense financial power means they are bringing a machine gun to
Can rank-and-file employees opt out of their unions'
political spending? They can, but they have to ask for that exemption,
and few do. The system is set up to allow the unions' political barons
to easily skim big money from dues with very little member involvement.
Under Walker's proposal, employees have to opt into their union and its
dues every year; nothing is automatic. Union leaders fear that few
rank-and-file members would do so, and their political machines would
quickly grind to a halt. And if Walker wins his battle in Wisconsin, it
could become a game changer for the GOP as other states follow suit.
(See how to fix teacher tenure without the pass-fail grade.)
This brutal battle of political realpolitik is why both
sides in Madison are dug in deep, hanging from the rafters of the
Wisconsin state capitol and vowing to fight to the death. National
labor and interest groups are funding TV ads trying to push public
opinion in Wisconsin to one side or the other. (Disclosure: I work with
a communications firm doing some of the pro-Walker ads. I also belong
to a union affiliated with the AFL-CIO.) Both sides have polls showing
they are winning, but the ground truth is murkier. Walker is prevailing
in the argument over the budget. But the unions have cleverly begun to
defend what they call the right of collective bargaining. That move is
as politically effective as it is factually dubious. Collective
bargaining for public employees didn't begin to gain strength until the
1960s, when growing union power (and Democratic statehouses) conspired
to adopt it. Two generations later, only 26 states allow collective
bargaining for most public employees, and this "right" has largely not
been extended to federal workers.
Like all political battles, the Wisconsin fight will come
down to numbers. I'm betting on Walker. He has the votes.
TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY, March 1 and
Maxine's best!! Indeed!
We need to show more sympathy for these people.
* They travel miles in the heat.
* They risk their lives crossing a border.
* They don't get paid enough wages.
* They do jobs that others won't do or are afraid to do.
* They live in crowded conditions among a people who speak a different
* They rarely see their families, and they face adversity all day ~
I'm not talking about illegal Mexicans. I'm talking about our
troops! Doesn't it seem strange that many Democrats and
Republicans are willing to lavish all kinds of social benefits on
illegals, but don't support our troops, and are even threatening to
If you wish, pass this on. It is worth the short time it takes to read
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