Daily Archives: December 30, 2015

When something can’t continue, it won’t

fighting rats

Fighting over the scraps

Democrat politicians and state employee unions face the music, and the unions don’t like it.

Left-leaning politicians from Rhode Island to California are increasingly supporting more aggressive overhauls of government pension benefits despite opposition from labor officials, traditionally one of the Democratic Party’s biggest policy and electoral supporters.

The erosion of Democratic backing for conventional retirement benefits prized by teachers, firefighters and police officers is a sign of how strained government budgets are as obligations for 24 million public workers and retirees continue to mount.

Pension-cutting Democrats can come off as the lesser of two evils for union officials, because they have curtailed some benefits in an effort to make retirement plans more sustainable. Republicans often pursue more drastic steps such as ditching traditional pensions altogether in favor of the 401(k)-like plans common in the private sector.

The amount states and local governments are paying each year to fund retirement systems has risen to 4% of annual spending, up from 2.3% in 2002, according to U.S. Census data. Meanwhile, large retirement systems now have just three-quarters of the assets they need to fund future obligations, according to consultant Milliman Inc., leaving a gap of $1 trillion.

Democrats rarely tried to roll back pensions before 2008, according to politicians and pension officials. But as deficits surged because of deep investment losses in the wake of the financial crisis and chronic underfunding of retirement plans, Democrats said they had little choice but to revamp benefits, leading to conflicts with what has usually been a large and loyal bloc of voters.

Pension overhauls are one of several issues straining relations between Democrats and unions. Some unions have battled Democrats who opposed the Keystone XL oil-pipeline project and others who back charter school expansion.

The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and other labor groups who backed the governor’s campaign have lobbied hard against Mr. Wolf’s changes, arguing that workers’ retirement security will be compromised. In recent weeks, union members have sent more than 100,000 emails to state legislators opposing the pension cuts.

“It’s a false choice,” said Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. “You don’t have to cut pensions in order to get school funding.”

There are already signs that some Democrats who take a harder line on pensions can survive politically. Pension-cutting Democrats can still come off as more friend than foe to union officials, because Republicans often target deeper benefit cuts.

Former Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo won election as governor in 2014 after battling with unions on a pension overhaul.

Ms. Raimondo ultimately reached a settlement with workers this year that locked in $4 billion in savings. The cuts included shifting some current workers and new hires onto plans that include a 401(k)-style account, plus reducing the cost-of-living adjustments for retirees.

“There’s still a core group that’s angry, and in many ways I understand why they’re angry,” Ms. Raimondo said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t be mad at me. Be mad at people who made promises that were unaffordable.’ ”

Those governors who are merely nibbling at the edges of this – like our own Dannel Malloy – are just pushing the crisis off into the near future, when their successors will have to make the deep cuts the unions are resisting. The day of reckoning is almost here.

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Defining deviancy downward

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You can join in a flash mob at the mall or do your homework, but probably not both

As Asian-American flourish, liberals, blacks and Hispanics move to limit their success.

NYPOST:

[Asian parents]  tend to oversee their children’s homework, stress the importance of earning high grades and instill the belief that hard work is the ticket to a better life.

And it pays off. Their children are soaring academically.

The outrage is that instead of embracing the example of these Asian families, school authorities and non-Asian parents want to rig the system to hold them back. It’s happening here in New York City, in suburban New Jersey and across the nation.

Here in New York City, Asian-Americans make up 13 percent of students, yet they win more than half of the coveted places each year at the city’s selective public high schools, such as Bronx Science and Stuyvesant.

What’s at play here? It’s not a difference in IQ; it’s parenting. That’s confirmed by a recent study by sociologists from City University of New York and the University of Michigan, which showed that parental oversight enabled Asian-American students to far outperform the others.

No wonder many successful charter schools require parents to sign a pledge that they’ll supervise their children’s homework and encourage a strong work ethic.

That formula is under fire at the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District in New Jersey. The district, which is 65 percent Asian, routinely produces seniors with perfect SAT scores, admissions to MIT and top prizes in international science competitions.

But many non-Asian parents are up in arms, complaining there’s too much pressure and their kids can’t compete. In response, this fall Superintendent David Aderhold apologized that school had become a “perpetual achievement machine.” Heaven forbid!

Aderhold canceled accelerated and enriched math courses for fourth and fifth grades, which were 90 percent Asian, and eliminated midterms and finals in high school.

Using a word that already strikes terror in the hearts of Asian parents, he said schools had to take a “holistic” approach. That’s the same euphemism Harvard uses to limit the number of Asians accepted and favor non-Asians.

Aderhold even lowered standards for playing in school music programs. Students have a “right to squeak,” he insisted. Never mind whether they practice.

Of course, neither Aderhold nor parents in charge of sports are indulging nonathletic kids with a “right to fumble” and join a mostly non-Asian varsity football team.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NAACP want to reduce the role the competitive exam plays in admissions for the city’s eight selective high schools in favor of a “holistic” approach. That means robbing poor, largely immigrant and first-generation kids — nearly half the students get subsidized school lunches — of the chance to study hard and compete for a world-class education.

As Dennis Saffran explains in “The Plot Against Merit,” some Asian-American eighth-graders practice for two years for the test, while their parents toil in laundromats and restaurants to pay for exam-prep classes.

What’s stopping white, Hispanic and black parents from doing the same thing?

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I foresee a surge in the sale of bedsheets in every European border town.

bedsheet-ghost

Looks like just another A-Rab to me, but if it works …

And if it works there, maybe along the Rio Grande too. Refugees in Sweden terrified by ghosts in shelter, seek other accommodations. 

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Dilbert’s back, briefly

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December 30, 2015 · 1:34 pm

Two starter homes or land sales

one carriage road

Swamp Vue

1 Carriage Road, Cos Cob, $875,000. One acre, one aging contemporary. It sold for $802,500 back in 2002, but it was priced and valued then as a livable house, rather than a free one, today. Personally, I think it’d be a perfectly nice house – all things being relative – for someone stretching their budget, but it’s probably due to be replaced.

And 67 Sumner Road, way out yonder in Indian territory, sold for $1.5 million even. Five acres, decent house – if you don’t mind the commute, not bad.

67 Sumner road

67 Sumner Road

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Belle Haven home comes a cropper

44 Harbor Drive

Belle Haven building lot. “Water views” not “water front”

44 Harbor Drive sold for $8.7 million in 2006 and the owners spent, I heard, over a million dollars having a new, 11,000 sq.foot house designed, with engineering studies and all that, then changed their minds and put it back up for sale. It just closed for $8.2 million.

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Meet your new diversity officer – he’ll be rich, white and straight

Queer muslim

Objective? I think not.

He belongs to the only minority left who’s not an officially recognized  “victim”,  and so only he  can make objective decisions.

There’s a reason we don’t ask the victims of crimes to pick punishments: they lack perspective and clarity. They are likely to wildly overstate perceived infractions or slights and wildly over-punish alleged offenders.

Instead, we ask a judge to decide, because he is an educated, impartial observer. Similarly, mutatis mutandis, introducing that essential critical distance into the business of assessing so-called oppression and structural injustice is the only way to navigate the complex privilege league tables the progressive Left has created.

Who’s to say, for example, whether women’s rights trump those of Muslims? We can’t just ask the Muslim: of course he’ll say he wants sharia law and for women to cover up in public. Who’s to say whether a company should prioritise hiring more women over more blacks? Or more gays over more crossdressing paraplegic Syrian refugees?

Such decisions cannot be left in the hands of groups who are advocating for their own interests. They should be left to people without a dog in the fight. In other words, white males, the only people besides East Asians who can handle the theoretical physics and heavy-duty maths required to properly weigh the horrific life experiences of pampered western feminists and Black Lives Matter protestors.

 

 

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Even in Maine, some people don’t get it

Car stuck in snow

Towing by the woods on a snowy evening

While out and about in yesterday’s  8″ “dusting”, I saw a large number of cars skidding, sliding and just plain going nowhere, even on plowed roads. That’s almost certainly because the cars were equipped with summer or “all-season” tires, in defiance of the certain knowledge that “all-season” refers to seasons in parts of the country that never see snow. If you live where it does snow, you need a different tire.

Edmunds did an interesting experiment testing the capabilities of “summer”, “all-season” and “snow” tires, first on snow, then on dry pavement. The result? Snows were pretty useless in dry California conditions, and fabulous in Minnesota, while summer tires were the reverse. All-Season tires gave the most balanced performance: they sucked in both conditions.

Summing Up
What can we make of all this? For one, low-friction surfaces demand respect. Our stopping distances in the wet range 30-40 percent longer than those recorded on dry pavement. Meanwhile, stops on snow consume at least three times the distance as they do on dry asphalt, even with the use of best-case tires in each situation.

Second, no single tire type excels on all surfaces, and the differences between each are sometimes striking. These differences are so massive, in fact, that we feel that certain generalizations can be extrapolated from our small trio of carefully selected test tires.

To the surprise of exactly no one, our winter tires dominate in snow and the summer tires dominate in the dry. The eye-opener here relates to wet performance, where a well-developed summer tire embarrasses an all-season tire made for the same car by the same folks. Anyone who never sees or visits snow would be very well served by summer tires for year-round use.

Another key take-away from this exercise is the utter worthlessness of those same summer tires on snow. Anyone who uses snow tires in winter and summer tires the rest of the year — a good strategy to maximize performance and control all year — needs to time the switch-over carefully to avoid getting caught out by the first rogue snow accumulation of the season.

And the lameness of summer tires on snow makes it easy to see why the California Highway Patrol and other local authorities can have a hair-trigger when it comes to requiring snow chains. It also explains why so many carmakers spend a lot of energy on all-season tires; they don’t know where you live or where you’ll drive, so they want to make sure you’ve got passable winter rubber.

But in delivering this capability, all-season tires sacrifice a noticeable bit of dry and wet performance. Meanwhile, snow and summer tires provide clear benefits to those who can use them. In this particular test, at least, all-season tires live up to the old figure of speech our old dad used to trot out on occasion: “jack of all trades, master of none.”

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But hiring her looked so good on their affirmative action report

truck fail

Oops!

Indiana: Historic bridge destroyed when lady truck driver tries to cross it because she “couldn’t convert tons to pounds”. 

A 2015 Volvo Semi Truck filled with 43,000 pounds of bottled water destroyed a  small bridge in Paoli, Indiana that dates back to 1880. The staggering part is that signs before the bridge said that the weight limit was 6 tons and that semis were not allowed on the bridge.

According to police reports the driver, Mary Lambright, was unaware that her vehicle was more than 6 tons because she couldn’t convert to pounds. All told she was off by about 24 tons, her truck weighed in at 30. More than that, the 53 foot box trailer didn’t even clear the top of the bridge.

She ended up at the bridge mouth after making a wrong turn en route to a Wal Mart parking lot where she had a stop off planned. Being uncomfortable in reverse after getting her CDL license earlier this year, she tried her chances on the bridge.

Would you hire a mathematical illiterate who can’t judge height or even read road signs, and who was “uncomfortable” in reverse, to drive your 2015 Volvo semi? Hell, maybe she’s a transvestite, in which case our government would insist on it.

truck fail 11

Here’re a couple of toughies: what do these signs mean?

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