Union Versus Union

While I was on the road today I heard a curious story on NPR:  the 109 non-management employees of the Ohio Education Association, which is Ohio’s largest teachers union, may go on strike if they don’t get a new contract to replace the contract that is expiring.  The OEA’s non-management employees are members of the Professional Staff Union.  The Professional Staff Union’s president says the possibility of a strike against a fellow union is embarrassing, but the OEA is “behaving as badly as the worst school boards and school administrators in negotiations with teachers.”

When one union guy says that about another union guy, that’s got to hurt — but at least he didn’t call him a “scab.”

Traficant’s Return

Jim Traficant apparently will be back on the ballot in November, running for the seat in Ohio’s 17th Congressional District as an independent.  Elections officials had previously ruled that Traficant lacked enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, but reversed that decision on reconsideration.

Traficant formerly was a Democrat who served 17 years in Congress.  In 2002, he was convicted on racketeering, bribery and tax evasion charges, and then was expelled from Congress.  During his years in Congress he became a well-known figure for his odd yet colorful speeches, his erratic behavior, and his bizarre, gravity-defying, bird’s nest hairstyle.

It’s hard to believe that Traficant, who got out of prison just last year, could actually be elected — but there is no doubt that he will make the election more interesting and unpredictable.

Mean Mean Pride

 Rush_Pub_1.jpg

I saw RUSH in concert at Nationwide Arena on Sunday night and it was the best concert I have ever seen in person. I happened to see them years ago when I was younger, but I felt like this time around they were wayyyyyyy better. 

I loved the fact that they pretty much played all of their hit songs during the three hours they were on stage and really gave everyone their money’s worth. Looks like this Columbus Dispatch concert reviewer agreed with me.

Our seats at Nationwide Arena were in the first row of the upper deck straight back from the stage so we had full view of the amazing light show, shooting fire and fireworks. Of course it wouldn’t have been a concert if I didn’t have a rather rotund gentleman sitting next to me spill water on me.

Their second set started with Tom Sawyer and they followed that up with Limelight followed by all of the songs on their 1981 Moving Pictures album. The thing I always liked about RUSH was not only the beat, but the words to their songs.

Man oh man that Geddy Lee can still hit the high notes. Not to mention Alex Lifeson’s unbelievable guitar work and Neil Peart’s drum solo. The concert was well worth it and I highly recommend going to see RUSH if they are coming to an arena near you !

Protecting Us From Arizona

Here’s a curious story:  the United States State Department has cited the federal government’s lawsuit against the Arizona immigration law in a “required report” to the United Nations Human Rights Council as one of the 100 steps the federal government has taken to uphold human and civil rights in the United States.  Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer, has reacted to this news with studied outrage.

There are lots of weird facets to this news item.  For example, why is the United States “required” to file a report about its internal affairs with the United Nations Human Rights Council?  (If we didn’t file the report, would the Council “flunk” us?)  Why should we be reporting to a Council that includes such noted freedom-loving countries as Cuba, Libya, China, and Saudi Arabia (among other countries where citizens enjoy fewer freedoms than are found in the U.S.A.)?   Moreover, do we really think that bringing a lawsuit that sought to enjoin the Arizona law before its enforcement was even attempted by police officers was really an important step in upholding human and civil rights?

The clear impression is that the State Department is pandering to an international community that is desperate to conclude that the United States is filled with angry xenophobes whose hate-filled bigotry is only barely being held in check through legal steps taken by our federal government.  The reaction of the Arizona Governor reported in the story linked above seems overdone, but it does rankle to think that our own national government is suggesting that one of our states needs to be restrained from violating human rights — and then is broadcasting that suggestion to repressive governments who don’t afford their citizens even the most basic freedoms provided by our Bill of Rights.

A Hot Topic (Cont.)

I’ve posted on several occasions before on sloppy science related to climate change — see here and here, for example — so I was glad to see that an independent review has suggested changes in how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change operates.  The proposals are designed to avoid politicizing science issues and making the body more transparent, although it remains to be seen whether changes actually are implemented.

The crucial point, I think, is to return scientists to their role as objective evaluators who develop theories and then carefully test their hypotheses.  When scientists pursue a political agenda, rather than simply trying to uncover the truth, the science obviously suffers.

The Thundering Herd, On Deck

The Buckeyes have completed fall camp and begin their season Thursday night against the Marshall Thundering Herd.

First games always make me nervous, and this game is no exception.  The other team hasn’t played, and you don’t have any film or tendencies to study.  In addition, in the past few years Ohio State has played their second or third game of the year against a marquee team — including Texas, USC, and, this year, Miami — and I always wonder whether the Buckeyes will look past their first opponent.  It seemed to happen last year against Navy, and we’ll just have to hope that it doesn’t happen against Marshall this year.  Buckeyes fans know that Marshall can come to Columbus and deliver a nailbiter; Marshall almost upset Ohio State back in 2004.

What do we know about Marshall?  Not a lot.  They hail from West Virginia and have a bison as a mascot.  They have a new coach.  They have three returning starters on their offensive line and an experienced quarterback who started 13 games last year and who has chemistry with a wide receiver who caught 60 passes last year.  Having experienced players is a real plus when you are playing in a tough environment like the Horseshoe.  Their leading rusher from last year turned pro early; two sophomores will have to pick up the slack.  On defense, Marshall returns some capable defensive lineman and linebackers who look like they can hit and put pressure on the quarterback.  However, the team seems to be thin in the secondary.

As for the Buckeyes, the big question will be whether the team will continue to progress in the same positive direction we saw in the Rose Bowl.  Offensively, Ohio State has an experienced offensive line and a cadre of very solid, multi-dimensional running backs.  Terrelle Pryor, now a junior, made significant strides as a passer last season after the disastrous Purdue game, and Buckeye fans will be hoping that the improvement continues.  The receiving corps has been depleted but returns some quality receivers.  Defensively, Ohio State lost some exceptional players from last year’s defensive line, but that unit looks to have great depth and a returning stud in Cameron Heyward.  The linebackers are experienced, rangy, and able to hit.  Ohio State’s question on defense will be the defensive backfield.

We’ll find out more about this season on Thursday night.  It will be one of those games where I will be holding my breath.

Katrina’s Five-Year Anniversary

It’s the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  The media usually cannot resist anniversaries, particularly when there is powerful film footage to show, and this one is no exception.  This CNN story on the anniversary is typical — a rehash of what happened, some hand-wringing about it, and plenty of retrospective blame being put on President Bush and the federal government, but curiously not much blame being apportioned to the State of Louisiana or the City of New Orleans itself.

I’m not sure what to make of such stories.  With Katrina, the federal government did not cover itself with glory in dealing with an enormous catastrophe, and neither did the state or city government.  People were marooned on the roofs of their homes, were not readily supplied with food and water, and could not be evacuated quickly from the hellish environs of the Superdome.  We learned that the federal government is a ponderous entity that does not move with lightning speed.  Was that unique to the Bush Administration?  Apparently not, because we recently saw a plodding, uncoordinated federal government make a similarly muddled response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.   Katrina also taught us that the Louisiana state government and the New Orleans city governments were corrupt, inept and seemingly hamstrung by politics.  Has anything changed in that regard?

If I had my way, every retrospective story on a disaster like Hurricane Katrina would focus not on what happened — we can safely leave that to historians — but on how things have changed to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.  No blame-shifting politicians or social scientists could be quoted.  Instead, facts would be the focus.  Have the levees been sufficiently strengthened?  Have cumbersome federal bureaucracies been streamlined to better deal with disasters?  Are evacuation plans reasonable and capable of being implemented?  If Katrina were to happen again today, would the results be any different?  If so, why?  Those are the tough questions that “retrospective” stories tend to leave unanswered.