Monthly Archives: June 2015

It’s the Symbolism that Counts

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truth-257159_640“But putting tenure in Regents policy carries less weight, especially symbolically, than having the ironclad protection of state law, said Noel Radomski, director of UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education. He said the loss of tenure will have immediate impact.”—Wisconsin State Journal, May 30, 2015

First of all, tenure isn’t being “lost” to University of Wisconsin faculty.  Second, we’re reliably informed that Wisconsin is the only state that specifically guarantees tenure in statute law, yet we don’t see faculties in other states depopulating as professors flee to take refuge in Wisconsin, lest their profound ideas be subject to political repression.

In fact, that’s acknowledged, eleven paragraphs into the story, so are Wisconsin faculty, who seem sure to retain an extraordinary level of protection, going to be seduced into leaving for other states that offer less?

No doubt hoping to paint a picture of Republican recklessness, the State Journal reporters linked above instead illuminate the unreality and lack of proportion that pervades academia, by referring to “the gravity of the [tenure] situation” and suggesting that it may be “of perhaps even more consequence” than a $250 million reduction in taxpayer support for the UW system.

What we’re left with is a nice illustration of academic bureaucracy leaping into action when it really counts, i.e., when it’s time to step up on behalf of inertia. Governor Walker’s initial budget set out to give the university system more autonomy in exchange for fewer tax dollars. To some, that sounds like freedom to do one’s job. To others, it stirs dread of having to make decisions and live with them.

It could be hoped that higher education would prepare people to enjoy precisely that: the freedom to take responsibility for their own decisions. Keep hoping.

In the tank for the unions

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fishtankOften as not the headline “New research shows” is a tipoff that an interest group has paid somebody to produce the findings it wanted, and a lazy or agenda-driven reporter or editor is perfectly happy to help dress it up as scientific inquiry from some think tank.

Dwindling numbers of people fall for this game, so when defenders of Wisconsin’s prevailing wage laws play it anyway, it’s obvious they know they’re losing their battle in the Legislature—after expending much effort insisting there’s really no battle at all.

Last week the pro-prevailing wage forces trotted out New Research” showing prevailing wage, already known to cost Wisconsin taxpayers a needless $200-300 million annually, is really an economic bonanza we can’t afford to lose. We thought it might be interesting to check the researchers’ pedigree.  Guess what we found.

Clicking on “About Us,” where you usually find out who runs an organization, we found zilch. But there was a reference to the tax-exempt status of Smart Cities Prevail so we looked up the IRS filings that identify the sole purpose of its existence:

“Educating the general public and elected officials regarding the benefits of paying prevailing wages to construction workers on public works projects.” 

Shazam!  Smart Cities Prevail had about $700,000 in revenues last year, all from “contributions and grants.”  Its president is Bill Feyling. We looked him up. Turns out he’s a union guy, Executive Director of the Carpenters 46 Northern California Counties Conference Board.

Oh, and did we mention that we found some of Mr. Feyling’s union memos to contractors about work rules and wages?  They all came from an address in Oakland. It’s the same Oakland address given by Smart Cities Prevail in its IRS filings.

It’s not a think tank. It’s a union.

The dogs that don’t bark

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silentdogSherlock Holmes fans will remember “The dog that didn’t bark,” giving the great detective his dis-positive clue that the crime under investigation was committed by the dog’s owner.

That was 19th century fiction, and entertaining; 21st century truth is downright chilling, where the disgraceful silence of non-barking First Amendment watchdogs is concerned.

The week before last a United States Senator seriously proposed, in the pages of The Washington Post, that people who question the theory of catastrophic, human-induced global warming should be prosecuted for felonies under the RICO (Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act.

Set aside the fact that Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is a daily and often mindlessly embarrassing nag on the subject. His idea should have set off the supposed First Amendment guardians on the Post’s editorial board like a box of Roman candles.  Their actual response: Zip. Zero. Nada.

Of course one Sheldon Whitehouse plus one leashed and muzzled editorial board equals somewhat less than the sum of their parts, but this is no freakish occurrence. With growing impunity, the Left speaks of making it a crime to say things the Left doesn’t like.  We’ve written more than once about Hillary Clinton’s expressed intent to appoint Supreme Court justices who would rule against criticism of the political class.  And so long as the wannabe totalitarians are on the Left, the media—the First Amendment’s most conspicuous beneficiaries—maintain silence.

Some of us have said for decades that Liberals wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to jail conservatives just for the ideas they hold, assuming a deranged culture in which it seemed politically possible. It appears that even among America’s media elites, civic literacy is in such an advanced state of decomposition that the Left now dares to believe its dream is coming true.