December 22, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 PM

POPULAR GOVERNMENT:

In Hezbollah stronghold, Lebanese Christians find respect, stability : In a Christian home in a Shiite suburb of Beirut, images of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah share mantel and wall space with the Virgin Mary. (Ariel Zirulnick, December 21, 2012, CS Monitor)

Lebanon's sectarian divides are legendary, and the residents of the historically Christian neighborhood of Harat Hreik, now a Hezbollah stronghold, remember well the civil war that set Beirut on fire. They were literally caught in the middle of some of the most vicious fighting, with factions firing shots off at one another from either side of their apartment buildings.

But in the intervening years, as Hezbollah cemented its control over the suburb of Dahiyeh, which includes Harat Hreik, the militant group has been an unexpected source of stability and even protection for the few remaining Christian families. Just a few blocks away from Nasrallah's compound is St. Joseph's Church, a vibrant church that Maronite Christians from across Beirut flock to every Sunday. 

"I feel honored to be here. They are honest. They are not extremists. It's not like everyone describes," Gholam says. "I can speak on behalf of all my Christian friends. They would say the same thing." 

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 PM

THE UNIVERSAL WAR ON PUBLIC UNIONS:

Conservative Blue : Republicans are enacting bold reforms in Democratic bastions of the Midwest. (CHRISTIAN SCHNEIDER, 18 December 2012, City Journal)

Michigan's tussle with unions follows a two-year imbroglio in Wisconsin, where, early in 2011, Republican governor Scott Walker virtually eliminated public-sector collective bargaining. Walker's move inflamed the state's government unions, leading to months of demonstrations, disruptions, and recall elections. Last June, Walker survived a recall, beating Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett (his opponent in the 2010 general election) by seven percentage points--a larger winning margin than he had enjoyed two years earlier.

Perhaps the most surprising recent labor battle has been in Illinois, where Chicago's Democratic mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has challenged public-union benefits and work hours. In September, Emanuel refused to cave in to the demands of 26,000 striking Chicago teachers. The teachers wanted pay increases of 30 percent to reflect a longer work day, and they objected to a proposed teacher-evaluation system. For almost two weeks, 350,000 Chicago schoolchildren sat home, while their teachers marched in picket lines. But Emanuel stood firm, and the teachers returned to work. (Emanuel has also challenged the city's operating-engineers' union on overtime policy and has proposed privatizing Chicago's recycling system.)

None of these initiatives is particularly innovative; Michigan became the 24th right-to-work state, for example. Twenty-four U.S. states have either reduced public-sector collective bargaining or don't permit it at all. Big cities deal with restrictive union contracts every fiscal year.

The real surprise is where these changes are taking place. Michigan is the birthplace of the United Auto Workers; the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) originated in Madison, Wisconsin; the Teamsters National Union formed in Chicago in 1901.