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Posts For: August 2, 2012

Ex-NLRB Counsel: Ignore WARN Act at Your Own Peril

The Obama administration is continuing to encourage employers to ignore the WARN Act, which would require them to inform employees before the presidential election that they may face layoffs due to sequestration. But a former counsel for the National Labor Relations Board and one of the crafters of the WARN Act is warning employers that they would open themselves up to worker lawsuits by ignoring the law. HuffPo reports:

But John Irving, a former National Labor Relations Board counsel who helped shape some provisions of the WARN Act, said he would tell major defense contractors to think twice about disregarding the WARN Act.

It is unlikely that the DOL guidance would hold up in court if a terminated worker sued his employer for not giving proper notice, Irving said.

In other words, defense contractors cannot fall back on the Department of Labor memo if the federal government lurches off the fiscal cliff and a laid-off employee had not received a pink slip by early November.

“It strikes me that the guidance is so far off the mark that you wonder why it’s being issued, and it’s not a regulation — it’s a sort of statement of opinion, which is coming out because of what could be the consequence,” Irving said. “It’s trying to blunt that and head it off in a way makes it look like no notice is not necessary when it may be.”

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The Obama administration is continuing to encourage employers to ignore the WARN Act, which would require them to inform employees before the presidential election that they may face layoffs due to sequestration. But a former counsel for the National Labor Relations Board and one of the crafters of the WARN Act is warning employers that they would open themselves up to worker lawsuits by ignoring the law. HuffPo reports:

But John Irving, a former National Labor Relations Board counsel who helped shape some provisions of the WARN Act, said he would tell major defense contractors to think twice about disregarding the WARN Act.

It is unlikely that the DOL guidance would hold up in court if a terminated worker sued his employer for not giving proper notice, Irving said.

In other words, defense contractors cannot fall back on the Department of Labor memo if the federal government lurches off the fiscal cliff and a laid-off employee had not received a pink slip by early November.

“It strikes me that the guidance is so far off the mark that you wonder why it’s being issued, and it’s not a regulation — it’s a sort of statement of opinion, which is coming out because of what could be the consequence,” Irving said. “It’s trying to blunt that and head it off in a way makes it look like no notice is not necessary when it may be.”

Obama’s Department of Labor must realize it’s asking defense contractors to put themselves at legal risk by asking them to ignore the law. The DOL doesn’t enforce the WARN Act; it’s enforced solely through legal challenges by employees. President Obama knows this all too well, since he personally supported stricter federal enforcement mechanisms for the WARN Act during his time in the senate.

If defense contractors don’t give 60 days notice of layoffs and sequestration kicks in as planned on Jan. 2 — not an unlikely scenario, since congress’s track record on compromising on these issues isn’t great — then employers could be hit with mass lawsuits. Tort attorneys must be salivating at the prospect.

And yet the White House isn’t backing down from the DOL’s recommendation. At a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, White House budget chief Jeffrey Zients claimed that sending out notices would be a “waste of taxpayer resources” and cause “unnecessary uncertainty”:

Appearing before the House Armed Services Committee, White House budget chief Jeffrey Zients defended recent guidance from the Department of Labor that advises firms against sending out layoff notices as the so-called “fiscal cliff” nears. The 23-year-old WARN Act requires some employers to send out pink slips 60 days ahead of a “reasonably foreseeable” event — in this case, massive spending cuts to defense and domestic programs triggered by the failure of the budget “super committee” last fall. …

“These potential plant closings or layoffs are speculative and unforeseeable, so to give blanket notices both wastes taxpayer resources and creates unnecessary uncertainty,” Zients responded. “So clearly the companies that you just talked about need to absorb this guidance from the Department of Labor, which is very clear, and they need to make their own decisions.”

Funny, the Obama administration hasn’t seemed overly concerned with “wasting taxpayer resources” in the past. And the idea that sending out paper or electronic notices of potential layoffs would be a major drain on taxpayers is laughable.

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Emails Show Extent of Solyndra’s Government Dependence

The House Energy and Commerce Committee released some brutally damaging emails for the Obama administration this morning, showing how reliant failed solar energy company Solyndra was on the government to stay afloat toward the end. As the Washington Post reports, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget found that it would be financially safer for the government to cut its losses in Solyndra rather than green-lighting additional loans — and yet the administration continued to gamble on the flailing company:

As the Obama administration moved last year to bail out Solyndra, the embattled flagship of the president’s initiative to promote alternative energy, a White House budget analyst calculated that millions of taxpayer dollars might be saved by cutting the government’s losses, shuttering the company immediately and selling its assets, according to a congressional investigation.

Even so, senior officials in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget did not discourage the Energy Department from proceeding with its plan to restructure a federal loan to Solyndra — a move that put private investors ahead of taxpayers for repayment if the company closed, the investigation by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee found.

The White House continues to deny there was any political favoritism involved, despite Obama’s cozy relationship with Solyndra execs and one of its main private backers, George Kaiser. But why else would the administration take such a financial risk on a likely loser, despite the findings from its own OMB? Why restructure a loan to let private investors get repaid before taxpayers? From an objective standpoint, the decision should be cut-and-dry. Even if the Obama administration didn’t care about squandering taxpayer money, you would think it would at least take it out of a high-risk investment when it had the option.

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The House Energy and Commerce Committee released some brutally damaging emails for the Obama administration this morning, showing how reliant failed solar energy company Solyndra was on the government to stay afloat toward the end. As the Washington Post reports, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget found that it would be financially safer for the government to cut its losses in Solyndra rather than green-lighting additional loans — and yet the administration continued to gamble on the flailing company:

As the Obama administration moved last year to bail out Solyndra, the embattled flagship of the president’s initiative to promote alternative energy, a White House budget analyst calculated that millions of taxpayer dollars might be saved by cutting the government’s losses, shuttering the company immediately and selling its assets, according to a congressional investigation.

Even so, senior officials in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget did not discourage the Energy Department from proceeding with its plan to restructure a federal loan to Solyndra — a move that put private investors ahead of taxpayers for repayment if the company closed, the investigation by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee found.

The White House continues to deny there was any political favoritism involved, despite Obama’s cozy relationship with Solyndra execs and one of its main private backers, George Kaiser. But why else would the administration take such a financial risk on a likely loser, despite the findings from its own OMB? Why restructure a loan to let private investors get repaid before taxpayers? From an objective standpoint, the decision should be cut-and-dry. Even if the Obama administration didn’t care about squandering taxpayer money, you would think it would at least take it out of a high-risk investment when it had the option.

But the story gets even worse for the White House. The Washington Times reports that newly released emails also indicate that Solyndra was hoping to make the federal government its biggest customer for solar panels, in an effort to stay above water:

“Getting business from Uncle Sam is a principal element of Solyndra’s channel strategy,” one investor wrote in an email months after Mr. Obama’s May 2010 tour of the now-bankrupt company, according details of an investigative report Thursday by Republicans on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

The now bankrupt company’s founder, Chris Gronet, “spoke very openly to Obama about the need for installation of Solyndra’s rooftop solar panels on U.S. government buildings,” Tom Baruch, founder of CMEA Capital, an investor, wrote to another Solyndra official.

“I heard Obama actually promise Chris he would look into it when he got back to Washington,” the email continued.

In other words, taxpayer money was going to be used to buy unprofitable solar panels from a company that was already being kept afloat by government loans. This was a company that was never interested in standing on its own feet, and whose entire existence — past and future — was dependent on the federal government.

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Goldman Sachs Invests in Crime Reduction

Government continues to struggle to find solutions for many of our most pressing social problems: reducing homelessness, lowering incarceration rates, improving the performance of inner-city schools. Despite the constant stream of taxpayer money into these efforts, the results have been slow to come and unimpressive (with some notable exceptions, like the reduction in overall crime under Mayor Giuliani).

The New York Times reports today on a new public-private partnership between Goldman Sachs and a Rikers Island program that aims to reduce recidivism rates among adolescent prisoners. If it succeeds, Goldman profits off its initial investment in the program; if it fails, Goldman loses money:

In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg plans to announce on Thursday that Goldman Sachs will provide a $9.6 million loan to pay for a new four-year program intended to reduce the rate at which adolescent men incarcerated at Rikers Island reoffend after their release. …

The Goldman money will be used to pay MDRC, a social services provider, to design and oversee the program. If the program reduces recidivism by 10 percent, Goldman would be repaid the full $9.6 million; if recidivism drops more, Goldman could make as much as $2.1 million in profit; if recidivism does not drop by at least 10 percent, Goldman would lose as much as $2.4 million.

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Government continues to struggle to find solutions for many of our most pressing social problems: reducing homelessness, lowering incarceration rates, improving the performance of inner-city schools. Despite the constant stream of taxpayer money into these efforts, the results have been slow to come and unimpressive (with some notable exceptions, like the reduction in overall crime under Mayor Giuliani).

The New York Times reports today on a new public-private partnership between Goldman Sachs and a Rikers Island program that aims to reduce recidivism rates among adolescent prisoners. If it succeeds, Goldman profits off its initial investment in the program; if it fails, Goldman loses money:

In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg plans to announce on Thursday that Goldman Sachs will provide a $9.6 million loan to pay for a new four-year program intended to reduce the rate at which adolescent men incarcerated at Rikers Island reoffend after their release. …

The Goldman money will be used to pay MDRC, a social services provider, to design and oversee the program. If the program reduces recidivism by 10 percent, Goldman would be repaid the full $9.6 million; if recidivism drops more, Goldman could make as much as $2.1 million in profit; if recidivism does not drop by at least 10 percent, Goldman would lose as much as $2.4 million.

These investments, known as “social impact bonds” have been used in Britain and Australia, but this would be the first attempt in the U.S. It’s an idea that has upsides for both liberals and conservatives: for liberals, it’s a way to entice private enterprise into supporting public social programs; for conservatives, it’s a way to introduce free market principles into government initiatives. The Goldman Sachs social impact bond in particular sounds like it will bring innovation and accountability to a subject — reducing reincarceration rates — that is lacking in both.

Goldman doesn’t seem to have much to gain or lose financially, other than pocket change (the $2 million at stake is a rounding error compared to the $900 second-quarter profit it reported last month). But the public relations pressure will probably be the biggest incentive.

It’s actually very interesting that Goldman has chosen to invest in reducing recidivism. The free market is a force of miracles that can pull countries out of poverty, tear down walls dividing social classes and allow us to reach new heights of innovation. But it can only reduce social problems to a point; individual choice still exists, and so crime, poverty and homelessness will always remain in some capacity. Is it possible that the recidivism rate can’t be lowered much more than it already has been? There is already a significant cost to choosing a criminal lifestyle. If someone is determined to continue along that path, can any amount of therapy or job training actually reform them? That’s what this social impact bond initiative seems meant to address. And it will be interesting to see what effect, if any, Goldman’s program will have.

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Who Will Be the Next April Glaspie?

Today marks the 22nd anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The Iraqi invasion followed months of escalating rhetoric, much of which American diplomats downplayed in the belief that Arab dictators didn’t mean what they said.  Meeting with Saddam Hussein eight days before the invasion, Ambassador April Glaspie told the Iraqi dictator, “We have no opinion on your Arab – Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.” Iraqi officials subsequently claimed that Saddam interpreted Glaspie’s remarks as a pledge of non-interference and perhaps even a green light.  The press made Glaspie into a scapegoat, but she was only the product of a larger diplomatic culture.

The invasion of Kuwait unleashed a cascade of events which culminated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The question both politicians and historians should ask is whether they might have headed off the invasion months or years ahead of time as the true nature of Saddam Hussein became clear.

Rather than suppress reports of Saddam’s chemical weapons use against Kurdish civilians, the Reagan administration should have cut Saddam off right then and there. But sophisticated diplomats hoped to rehabilitate Saddam, both as a means of containing Iran and also to peel Saddam away from Soviet influence.

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Today marks the 22nd anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The Iraqi invasion followed months of escalating rhetoric, much of which American diplomats downplayed in the belief that Arab dictators didn’t mean what they said.  Meeting with Saddam Hussein eight days before the invasion, Ambassador April Glaspie told the Iraqi dictator, “We have no opinion on your Arab – Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.” Iraqi officials subsequently claimed that Saddam interpreted Glaspie’s remarks as a pledge of non-interference and perhaps even a green light.  The press made Glaspie into a scapegoat, but she was only the product of a larger diplomatic culture.

The invasion of Kuwait unleashed a cascade of events which culminated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The question both politicians and historians should ask is whether they might have headed off the invasion months or years ahead of time as the true nature of Saddam Hussein became clear.

Rather than suppress reports of Saddam’s chemical weapons use against Kurdish civilians, the Reagan administration should have cut Saddam off right then and there. But sophisticated diplomats hoped to rehabilitate Saddam, both as a means of containing Iran and also to peel Saddam away from Soviet influence.

Against a steady stream of reports suggesting Saddam’s cruelty and aggressive intent, Sen. John McCain pushed for military sanctions on Iraq. Sen. Arlen Specter decided to travel to Baghdad to talk with the Iraqi dictator. Like his senate colleagues John Kerry, Joseph Biden, and Dick Lugar, as well as Nancy Pelosi in the House, Specter believed that he had a unique ability to talk dictators back from the brink: He could engage successfully, where all others had failed. Specter met Saddam on January 12, 1990. He believed Saddam’s talk of peace, and effectively became Saddam’s useful idiot. Over the next few months, he persistently undercut McCain’s proposals to extend military sanctions on Iraq.

Saddam may today be gone, but history seems to be repeating with regard to Iran. Iranian leaders issue a steady stream of genocidal rhetoric against Israel, support repression in Syria, and question the sovereignty of Bahrain. Yet, diplomats and many academics dismiss Iranian rhetoric. While senators have largely embraced sanctions against Iran, just as Specter did almost 23 years ago, President Obama and senior administration officials still suggest that there is enough time for diplomacy to work, even as Khamenei, like Saddam before him, pushes full steam ahead with plans to fulfill his regional ambition.

As history repeats itself, the only questions are who will be the next Glaspie and how much ruin will the Obama team’s blind belief in diplomacy bring.

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Reid: Romney Needs to Prove He Paid Taxes

Sen. Harry Reid’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s tax history are becoming increasingly shrill and outlandish. On Wednesday, he doubled down on his claim that Romney didn’t pay taxes for 10 years, telling reporters that “a number of people” have told him that Romney was a long-time tax cheat. The Senate majority leader probably thought his claims would be enough to pressure Romney into releasing additional tax returns — instead, Reid is looking more and more like a joke:

On Wednesday, Reid stuck to his story, and broadened it.

“I am not basing this on some figment of my imagination,” Reid said in a telephone call with Nevada reporters. “I have had a number of people tell me that.”

Asked to elaborate on his sources, Reid declined. “No, that’s the best you’re going to get from me.”

“I don’t think the burden should be on me,” Reid said. “The burden should be on him. He’s the one I’ve alleged has not paid any taxes. Why didn’t he release his tax returns?”

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Sen. Harry Reid’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s tax history are becoming increasingly shrill and outlandish. On Wednesday, he doubled down on his claim that Romney didn’t pay taxes for 10 years, telling reporters that “a number of people” have told him that Romney was a long-time tax cheat. The Senate majority leader probably thought his claims would be enough to pressure Romney into releasing additional tax returns — instead, Reid is looking more and more like a joke:

On Wednesday, Reid stuck to his story, and broadened it.

“I am not basing this on some figment of my imagination,” Reid said in a telephone call with Nevada reporters. “I have had a number of people tell me that.”

Asked to elaborate on his sources, Reid declined. “No, that’s the best you’re going to get from me.”

“I don’t think the burden should be on me,” Reid said. “The burden should be on him. He’s the one I’ve alleged has not paid any taxes. Why didn’t he release his tax returns?”

Actually, that’s not how these things work. Reid is the one making the accusations, and he should provide at least some shred of evidence that his claims weren’t completely fabricated — something more than just his word that he’s “not basing this on some figment of my imagination.” Why should the burden of proof be on Romney to show that Reid’s completely unsourced allegations are false? If Reid has talked to a number of people about this, why haven’t any of them gone to the media? Why is Reid the first person we’re hearing this from?

Amazingly, after telling a huddle of reporters that he couldn’t reveal any of his sources, Reid insisted that they begin poking around in Romney’s financial history and write stories about the tax accusations:

Reid challenged the media to be more aggressive in digging into Romney’s finances.

“What if he has paid no taxes, like I am saying he hasn’t,” Reid said. “What if he has all these moneys as we already know … in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Swiss banks. I mean, gee whiz, rather than ask me why I should do this, that is a story you should be writing.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is apparently used to Reid’s outbursts, concluded that “If nothing else, Reid’s remarks could be entered onto a list of other head-turning comments he has made over the years, including calling President George W. Bush a liar and a ‘loser’ on separate occasions.” Very true — this isn’t the first time Reid has taken attacks on Republican candidates too far. At least in this instance it doesn’t seem like the press is taking him very seriously.

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Olympics and the International Community

From the moment the International Olympic Committee (IOC) turned down the request to commemorate the deaths of Israeli Olympians killed in Munich forty years ago the tone was set for how the games would portray the international community. The Olympics are meant to spotlight sportsmanship and patriotism, but have given the games and many of their participants black eyes on the world stage.

The anti-Semitism exhibited by the opponents of the Munich moment of silence weren’t the only instances we’ve seen so far. Members of the Lebanese judo team refused to practice next to Israelis. Commentators on Al-Jazeera derided Israel as the Israeli delegation entered the stadium during the Opening Ceremonies. The Palestinian Olympic chief applauded the IOC’s decision to forgo a moment of silence for the Munich 11. Israeli swimmers were left without a security detail at a training camp outside of London, even in the wake of the Burgas terror attack. The London Olympics’ website couldn’t quite understand where the city of Jerusalem lies, first awarding it to “Palestine” as its capital, leaving Israel without a seat of power. The list of offenses against the Jewish state unfortunately goes on, and equally unfortunate, given how much time is left in the Olympics, there will no doubt be more to follow.

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From the moment the International Olympic Committee (IOC) turned down the request to commemorate the deaths of Israeli Olympians killed in Munich forty years ago the tone was set for how the games would portray the international community. The Olympics are meant to spotlight sportsmanship and patriotism, but have given the games and many of their participants black eyes on the world stage.

The anti-Semitism exhibited by the opponents of the Munich moment of silence weren’t the only instances we’ve seen so far. Members of the Lebanese judo team refused to practice next to Israelis. Commentators on Al-Jazeera derided Israel as the Israeli delegation entered the stadium during the Opening Ceremonies. The Palestinian Olympic chief applauded the IOC’s decision to forgo a moment of silence for the Munich 11. Israeli swimmers were left without a security detail at a training camp outside of London, even in the wake of the Burgas terror attack. The London Olympics’ website couldn’t quite understand where the city of Jerusalem lies, first awarding it to “Palestine” as its capital, leaving Israel without a seat of power. The list of offenses against the Jewish state unfortunately goes on, and equally unfortunate, given how much time is left in the Olympics, there will no doubt be more to follow.

The embarrassments don’t end there, however. Stories about the cruelty of the Chinese government in their pursuit of gold have circulated the internet along with heartbreaking photos of crying children, removed from their families and forced into grueling training. CNN published an opinion piece today about the story behind the Saudi women’s Olympic squad, showcasing the backwards cultural impediments to female athletes in the Middle Eastern nation. Stories have emerged about doping, thrown badminton games, fencing controversies and unfair judging for gymnastics competitions as well.

Can someone please remind me: What’s the point of the Olympics? What was once billed as a rare opportunity to put ethnic controversies and rivalries aside for the sake of “the game” has warped into exactly what the “international community” has become: a body of nations plagued by mainstream anti-Semitism, led by totalitarians, perpetuating everything they claim to be working to combat.

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Inside the Mind of the Iranian Regime

The Open Source Center has translated remarks made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the evening of August 1 to a gathering of ambassadors from Islamic countries serving in Iran:

For about 400 years a horrifying Zionist group have been managing world affairs by being behind the scene of main power, politics, media, monetary and banking centers in the world; so much so that candidates of a huge country with great economic power and over 300 million population need to go and kiss the Zionists’ feet in order to win the elections.

When Ahmadinejad talks about the “Zionists” 400-year grip on power perhaps it’s time to put aside the silly notion that he is describing political rather than anti-Semitic antipathies. Ahmadinejad may not be the top official in Iran, but he does come out of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and an education system which inculcates such vitriol.

The Open Source Center has translated remarks made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the evening of August 1 to a gathering of ambassadors from Islamic countries serving in Iran:

For about 400 years a horrifying Zionist group have been managing world affairs by being behind the scene of main power, politics, media, monetary and banking centers in the world; so much so that candidates of a huge country with great economic power and over 300 million population need to go and kiss the Zionists’ feet in order to win the elections.

When Ahmadinejad talks about the “Zionists” 400-year grip on power perhaps it’s time to put aside the silly notion that he is describing political rather than anti-Semitic antipathies. Ahmadinejad may not be the top official in Iran, but he does come out of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and an education system which inculcates such vitriol.

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