Are unions evil? No, just obsolete

The absolutely despicable behavior displayed by the pro-union thugs in Wisconsin (check out the Althouse-Meade team’s citizen journalism straight from Madison) has turned out to be everything the make-believe media claimedf the Tea Party was. It may be seductive to some on the right to think that unions are evil, and one could be forgiven for thinking the WI public sector unions were following the book by Draco Carnegie (Dale Carnegie’s evil twin): “How to lose friends and alienate people”.

Unlike some conservatives, I do not harbor starry-eyed illusions that bosses never exploit workers, and that workers never need represesntation or protection. This is not because of any residual liberal convictions but because — like any good conservative — I realize entrepreneurs are humans too and no human flaws will be alien to them.

Once upon a time, unions did a lot of good in remedying intolerable working conditions. However, when the “sweatshops” and slave-labor mines of old fell before the twin onslaught of worker activism and technological progress (many “progressives” are incapable of admitting that technological progress has done more to empower non-privileged individuals than all social engineering schemes ever devised together), the unions saw themselves faced with the need to either reinvent themselves or fade away.

Sometimes, as discussed in this golden oldie by Steven den Beste, an organization that outlives the problem it is meant to address will successfully reinvent itself. Far more commonly, the organization will artificially seek to perpetuate a problem in order to justify its continued existence and expansion, or try to inflate residual isolated problems into grand societal challenges . The UNRWA is a tragic example; an organization like SPLC a merely farcical one.

Robert Samuelson has a must-read article in the Washington Post today. Get thee over there, but let me share with you some data from the article that really floored me.

How much of the workforce do unions represent? Turns out, just 11.9% nationwide. In the private sector, thiis drops to just 6.9% (!), while in the public sector, 36.2% of workers is unionized. (These numbers, actually, imply that 17.1% of the American workforce works in the public sector.)

In other words, as Samuelson argues, unions are becoming largely irrelevant in the private sector, and are essentially becoming a public-sector phenomenon. Which is why attempts to curtail their influence in their last remaining bulwark are (correctly) perceived by union leadership as an existential threat.

Moreover, Simon at Power and Control (crosspost at Classical Values) points to data suggesting that the unions are in dire financial shape.  They “went for broke” in supporting 0bama, in the hope that he would oversee either a massive expansion of the governmental workforce, or introduce union-friendly “card check” legislation restoring their power base in the private sector, or both.

Ironically, Federal government employees (as distinct from state and local ones) have greatly curtailed collective bargaining rights:

While labor unions that represent federal workers do have some collective bargaining rights, provisions in the Civil Service Reform Act passed under President Carter in 1978 restrict federal employees from using it for pay or pensions and federal workers cannot be forced into a union or required to pay dues.

Pournelle’s Iron Law states that any bureaucratic organization will eventually become dominated by people that work not for its stated ends, but for the organization for its own sake and for the sake of their own private bureaucratic empires. Precisely this is what happened to unions in the USA.

Jonah Goldberg on public sector unions

Jonah Goldberg:

A crucial distinction has been lost in the debate over Walker’s proposals: Government unions are not the same thing as private-sector unions.Traditional, private-sector unions were born out of an often-bloody adversarial relationship between labor and management. It’s been said that during World War I, U.S. soldiers had better odds of surviving on the front lines than miners did in West Virginia coal mines. Mine disasters were frequent; hazardous conditions were the norm. In 1907, the Monongah mine explosion claimed the lives of 362 West Virginia miners. Day-to-day life often resembled serfdom, with management controlling vast swaths of the miners’ lives. Before unionization and many New Deal–era reforms, Washington had little power to reform conditions by legislation.

Government unions have no such narrative on their side. […] Government workers were making good salaries in 1962 when President Kennedy lifted, by executive order (so much for democracy), the federal ban on government unions. Civil-service regulations and similar laws had guaranteed good working conditions for generations.

The argument for public unionization wasn’t moral, economic, or intellectual. It was rankly political.

Traditional organized labor, the backbone of the Democratic party, was beginning to lose ground. As Daniel DiSalvo wrote in “The Trouble with Public Sector Unions,” in the fall issue of National Affairs, JFK saw how in states such as New York and Wisconsin, where public unions were already in place, local liberal pols benefited politically and financially. He took the idea national.

The plan worked perfectly — too perfectly. Public-union membership skyrocketed, and government-union support for the party of government skyrocketed with it. From 1989 to 2004, AFSCME — the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees — gave nearly $40 million to candidates in federal elections, with 98.5 percent going to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Why would local government unions give so much in federal elections? Because government workers have an inherent interest in boosting the amount of federal tax dollars their local governments get. Put simply, people in the government business support the party of government. Which is why, as the Manhattan Institute’s Steven Malanga has been chronicling for years, public unions are the country’s foremost advocates for increased taxes at all levels of government.

And this gets to the real insidiousness of government unions. Wisconsin labor officials fairly note that they’ve acceded to many of their governor’s specific demands — that workers contribute to their pensions and health-care costs, for example. But they don’t want to lose the right to collective bargaining.

But that is exactly what they need to lose.

Private-sector unions fight with management over an equitable distribution of profits. Government unions negotiate with friendly politicians over taxpayer money, putting the public interest at odds with union interests, and, as we’ve seen in states such as California and Wisconsin, exploding the cost of government. California’s pension costs soared 2,000 percent in a decade thanks to the unions.

The labor-politician negotiations can’t be fair when the unions can put so much money into campaign spending. Victor Gotbaum, a leader in the New York City chapter of AFSCME, summed up the problem in 1975 when he boasted, “We have the ability, in a sense, to elect our own boss.”

This is why FDR believed that “the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service,” and why even George Meany, the first head of the AFL-CIO, held that it was “impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”

As it turns out, it’s not impossible; it’s just terribly unwise. It creates a dysfunctional system where for some, growing government becomes its own reward. You can find evidence of this dysfunction everywhere. The Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner notes that federal education spending has risen by 188 percent in real terms since 1970, but we’ve seen no significant improvement in test scores.The unions and the protesters in Wisconsin see Walker’s reforms as a potential death knell for government unions. My response? If only.

Read the whole thing. Pournelle’s Iron Law in action again.

UPDATE: the indispensible Michael Barone: Public Unions Force Taxpayers To Fund Democrats.

Everyone has priorities. During the past week Barack Obama has found no time to condemn the attacks that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi has launched on the Libyan people.

But he did find time to be interviewed by a Wisconsin television station and weigh in on the dispute between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the state’s public employee unions. Walker was staging “an assault on unions,” he said, and added that “public employee unions make enormous contributions to our states and our citizens.”

Enormous contributions, yes — to the Democratic Party and the Obama campaign. Unions, most of whose members are public employees, gave Democrats some $400 million in the 2008 election cycle. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the biggest public employee union, gave Democrats $90 million in the 2010 cycle.

Follow the money, Washington reporters like to say. The money in this case comes from taxpayers, present and future, who are the source of every penny of dues paid to public employee unions, who in turn spend much of that money on politics, almost all of it for Democrats. In effect, public employee unions are a mechanism by which every taxpayer is forced to fund the Democratic Party.

The revolt of the masses and our ruling class

Jerry Pournelle quotes “The revolt of the masses” by Jose Ortega y Gasset:

Doubtless the most radical division of humanity that can be made is that between two classes of creatures: those who demand much of themselves and assume a burden of tasks and difficulties, and those who require nothing special of themselves, but rather for whom to live is to be in every instant only what they already are.

* * *

The mass-man would never have accepted authority external to himself had not his surroundings violently forced him to do so. As to-day, his surroundings do not so force him, the everlasting mass-man, true to his character, ceases to appeal to other authority and feels himself lord of his own existence. On the contrary the select man, the excellent man is urged, by interior necessity, to appeal from himself to some standard beyond himself, superior to himself, whose service he freely accepts.… Contrary to what is usually thought, it is the man of excellence, and not the common man who lives in essential servitude. Life has no savour for him unless he makes it consist in service to something transcendental. Hence he does not look upon the necessity of serving as an oppression. When, by chance, such necessity is lacking, he grows restless and invents some new standard, more difficult, more exigent, with which to coerce himself. This is life lived as a discipline — the noble life.

A superficial, out-of-context reading would make Ortega y Gasset seem like an elitist. However, Wikipedia (of all places) clarifies:

Ortega is throughout quite critical of both the masses and the mass-men of which they are made up, contrasting “noble life and common life” and excoriating the barbarism and primitivism he sees in the mass-man. He does not, however, refer to specific social classes, as has been so commonly misunderstood in the English-speaking world. Ortega states that the mass-man could be from any social background, but his specific target is the bourgeois educated man, the señorito satisfecho (satisfied young man or Mr. Satisfied), the specialist who believes he has it all and extends the command he has of his subject to others, contemptuous of his ignorance in all of them. His summary of what he attempted in the book exemplifies this quite well, while simultaneously providing the author’s own views on his work: “In this essay an attempt has been made to sketch a certain type of European, mainly by analyzing his behaviour as regards the very civilization into which he was born”. This had to be done because that individual “does not represent a new civilisation struggling with a previous one, but a mere negation …”

The members of the over-credentialed, under-educated US “elite” and commentariat fit the image of the señorito satisfecho to a tee.

America’s ruling class vs. its country class

This essay (via Insty) is a must-read indeed. The moneygrafs:

Never has there been so little diversity within America’s upper crust. Always, in America as elsewhere, some people have been wealthier and more powerful than others. But until our own time America’s upper crust was a mixture of people who had gained prominence in a variety of ways, who drew their money and status from different sources and were not predictably of one mind on any given matter. The Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis had little contact with one another. Few had much contact with government, and “bureaucrat” was a dirty word for all. So was “social engineering.” Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday’s upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed. All that has changed.Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. . . . Today, few speak well of the ruling class. Not only has it burgeoned in size and pretense, but it also has undertaken wars it has not won, presided over a declining economy and mushrooming debt, made life more expensive, raised taxes, and talked down to the American people. Americans’ conviction that the ruling class is as hostile as it is incompetent has solidified. The polls tell us that only about a fifth of Americans trust the government to do the right thing. The rest expect that it will do more harm than good and are no longer afraid to say so. . . . Our ruling class’s agenda is power for itself. While it stakes its claim through intellectual-moral pretense, it holds power by one of the oldest and most prosaic of means: patronage and promises thereof. . . . In this clash, the ruling class holds most of the cards: because it has established itself as the fount of authority, its primacy is based on habits of deference. Breaking them, establishing other founts of authority, other ways of doing things, would involve far more than electoral politics.

Now just who are this “ruling class”? Basically, the same people Thomas Sowell refers to as “the Anointed” and various people (such as Insty and your obedient servant) refer to as “The New Class”. This portrait, however, cuts to the bone:

Who are these rulers, and by what right do they rule? How did America change from a place where people could expect to live without bowing to privileged classes to one in which, at best, they might have the chance to climb into them? What sets our ruling class apart from the rest of us?

The most widespread answers — by such as the Times‘s Thomas Friedman and David Brooks — are schlock sociology. Supposedly, modern society became so complex and productive, the technical skills to run it so rare, that it called forth a new class of highly educated officials and cooperators in an ever less private sector. [NCT notes: in this meaning, the term was originally coined by John Kenneth Galbraith; in the context of critiques of Marxism, it was coined by Milovan Djilas to refer to what in Soviet Russia was known as the “nomenklatura”, and in George Orwell’s “1984” as the Inner Party.] Similarly fanciful is Edward Goldberg’s notion that America is now ruled by a “newocracy”: a “new aristocracy who are the true beneficiaries of globalization — including the multinational manager, the technologist and the aspirational members of the meritocracy.” In fact, our ruling class grew and set itself apart from the rest of us by its connection with ever bigger government, and above all by a certain attitude.

Other explanations are counterintuitive. Wealth? The heads of the class do live in our big cities’ priciest enclaves and suburbs, from Montgomery County, Maryland, to Palo Alto, California, to Boston’s Beacon Hill as well as in opulent university towns from Princeton to Boulder. But they are no wealthier than many Texas oilmen or California farmers, or than neighbors with whom they do not associate — just as the social science and humanities class that rules universities seldom associates with physicians and physicists. Rather, regardless of where they live, their social-intellectual circle includes people in the lucrative “nonprofit” and “philanthropic” sectors and public policy. What really distinguishes these privileged people demographically is that, whether in government power directly or as officers in companies, their careers and fortunes depend on government. They vote Democrat more consistently than those who live on any of America’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Streets. These socioeconomic opposites draw their money and orientation from the same sources as the millions of teachers, consultants, and government employees in the middle ranks who aspire to be the former and identify morally with what they suppose to be the latter’s grievances.

Professional prominence or position will not secure a place in the class any more than mere money. In fact, it is possible to be an official of a major corporation or a member of the U.S. Supreme Court (just ask Justice Clarence Thomas), or even president (Ronald Reagan), and not be taken seriously by the ruling class. Like a fraternity, this class requires above all comity — being in with the right people, giving the required signs that one is on the right side, and joining in despising the Outs. Once an official or professional shows that he shares the manners, the tastes, the interests of the class, gives lip service to its ideals and shibboleths, and is willing to accommodate the interests of its senior members, he can move profitably among our establishment’s parts.

If, for example, you are Laurence Tribe in 1984, Harvard professor of law, leftist pillar of the establishment, you can “write” your magnum opus by using the products of your student assistant, Ron Klain. A decade later, after Klain admits to having written some parts of the book, and the other parts are found to be verbatim or paraphrases of a book published in 1974, you can claim (perhaps correctly) that your plagiarism was “inadvertent,” and you can count on the Law School’s dean, Elena Kagan, to appoint a committee including former and future Harvard president Derek Bok that issues a secret report that “closes” the incident. Incidentally, Kagan ends up a justice of the Supreme Court. Not one of these people did their jobs: the professor did not write the book himself, the assistant plagiarized instead of researching, the dean and the committee did not hold the professor accountable, and all ended up rewarded. By contrast, for example, learned papers and distinguished careers in climatology at MIT (Richard Lindzen) or UVA (S. Fred Singer) are not enough for their questions about “global warming” to be taken seriously. For our ruling class, identity always trumps.

Much less does membership in the ruling class depend on high academic achievement. To see something closer to an academic meritocracy consider France, where elected officials have little power, a vast bureaucracy explicitly controls details from how babies are raised to how to make cheese, and people get into and advance in that bureaucracy strictly by competitive exams. Hence for good or ill, France’s ruling class are bright people — certifiably. Not ours. But didn’t ours go to Harvard and Princeton and Stanford? Didn’t most of them get good grades? Yes. But while getting into the Ecole Nationale d’Administration or the Ecole Polytechnique or the dozens of other entry points to France’s ruling class requires outperforming others in blindly graded exams, and graduating from such places requires passing exams that many fail, getting into America’s “top schools” is less a matter of passing exams than of showing up with acceptable grades and an attractive social profile. American secondary schools are generous with their As. Since the 1970s, it has been virtually impossible to flunk out of American colleges. And it is an open secret that “the best” colleges require the least work and give out the highest grade point averages. No, our ruling class recruits and renews itself not through meritocracy but rather by taking into itself people whose most prominent feature is their commitment to fit in. The most successful neither write books and papers that stand up to criticism nor release their academic records. Thus does our ruling class stunt itself through negative selection. But the more it has dumbed itself down, the more it has defined itself by the presumption of intellectual superiority.

But why?

Our ruling class’s agenda is power for itself. While it stakes its claim through intellectual-moral pretense, it holds power by one of the oldest and most prosaic of means: patronage and promises thereof. Like left-wing parties always and everywhere, it is a “machine,” that is, based on providing tangible rewards to its members. Such parties often provide rank-and-file activists with modest livelihoods and enhance mightily the upper levels’ wealth. Because this is so, whatever else such parties might accomplish, they must feed the machine by transferring money or jobs or privileges — civic as well as economic — to the party’s clients, directly or indirectly. This, incidentally, is close to Aristotle’s view of democracy. Hence our ruling class’s standard approach to any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems, is to increase the power of the government — meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves, to profit those who pay with political support for privileged jobs, contracts, etc. Hence more power for the ruling class has been our ruling class’s solution not just for economic downturns and social ills but also for hurricanes and tornadoes, global cooling and global warming. A priori, one might wonder whether enriching and empowering individuals of a certain kind can make Americans kinder and gentler, much less control the weather. But there can be no doubt that such power and money makes Americans ever more dependent on those who wield it. Let us now look at what this means in our time.

Go forth and read the rest. Going from the national to the transnational plane — and tying in with the previous post — see also this related classic article by John Fonte, “The coming ideological war within the West“.

Is 0bama losing the elites?

Via Insty, an article on the Aspen Ideas Festival where comments were anything but an 0bama-worshipfest:

“If you’re asking if the United States is about to become a socialist state, I’d say it’s actually about to become a European state, with the expansiveness of the welfare system and the progressive tax system like what we’ve already experienced in Western Europe,” Harvard business and history professor Niall Ferguson declared during Monday’s kickoff session, offering a withering critique of Obama’s economic policies, which he claimed were encouraging laziness.

“The curse of longterm unemployment is that if you pay people to do nothing, they’ll find themselves doing nothing for very long periods of time,” Ferguson said. “Long-term unemployment is at an all-time high in the United States, and it is a direct consequence of a misconceived public policy.”

Ferguson was joined in his harsh attack by billionaire real estate mogul and New York Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman. [NCT: note that Zuckerman endorsed 0bama in 2008.] Both lambasted Obama’s trillion-dollar deficit spending program—in the name of economic stimulus to cushion the impact of the 2008 financial meltdown—as fiscally ruinous, potentially turning America into a second-rate power.

“We are, without question, in a period of decline, particularly in the business world,” Zuckerman said. “The real problem we have…are some of the worst economic policies in place today that, in my judgment, go directly against the long-term interests of this country.”

Zuckerman added that he detects in the Obama White House “hostility to the very kinds of [business] culture that have made this the great country that it is and was. I think we have to find some way of dealing with that or else we will do great damage to this country with a public policy that could ruin everything.”

Ferguson added: “The critical point is if your policy says you’re going run a trillion-dollar deficit for the rest of time, you’re riding for a fall…Then it really is goodbye.” A dashing Brit, Ferguson added: “Can I say that, having grown up in a declining empire, I do not recommend it. It’s just not a lot of fun actually—decline.”

Ferguson called for what he called “radical” measures. “I can’t emphasize strongly enough the need for radical fiscal reform to restore the incentives for work and remove the incentives for idleness.” He praised “really radical reform of the sort that, for example, Paul Ryan [the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee] has outlined in his wonderful ‘Roadmap’ for radical, root-and-branch reform not only of the tax system but of the entitlement system” and “unleash entrepreneurial innovation.” Otherwise, Ferguson warned: “Do you want to be a kind of implicit part of the European Union? I’d advise you against it.”

[…] In a session Tuesday morning, Silicon Valley guru Michael Splinter piled on. “From an industry standpoint, it’s below what a lot of people in industry have viewed as the solution to the jobs problem,” Splinter, president of the Applied Materials solar energy company, complained about Obama’s economic performance. He was speaking to an agreeable audience in an interview with Atlantic Media owner David Bradley. “When I talk to venture capitalists, their companies are starting to move their manufacturing operations out of the United States…Our corporate tax rate, on a worldwide competitive basis, is just not competitive. Taiwan is lowering their rate to 20 to 15 percent in order to stay competitive with Singapore. These countries have made it their job to attract industry. You don’t get that sense here in the United States.”

Say no more…

NAS compiles dossier on AGW “deniers”, including… NAS members

This is the sort of thing that, if this were even possible, would make me feel ashamed to call myself a scientist. Frank Tipler:

The National Academy of Sciences, in its official journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has just published a list of scientists whom it claims should not be believed on the subject of global warming. I am number 38 on the list. The list of 496 is in descending order of scientific credentials.

Professor Freeman Dyson of the Institute for Advanced Study, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the Royal Society, is number 3 on the list. Dyson is a friend of mine and is one of the creators of relativistic quantum field theory; most physicists think he should have shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Richard Feynman. MIT professor Richard Lindzen, a meteorologist who is also a member of the National Academy, is number 4. Princeton physics professor William Happer, once again a member of the National Academy of Sciences, is number 6.

I’m in good company.

The list is actually available only online. The published article, which links to the list, argues that the skeptical scientists — the article calls us “climate deniers,” trying to equate us with Holocaust deniers — have published less in climate “science” than believers in anthropogenic global warming (AGW).


But if the entire field of climate “science” is suspect, if the leaders of the field of climate “science” are suspected of faking their results and are accused of arranging for their critics’ papers to be rejected by “peer-reviewed” journals, then lack of publication in climate “science” is an argument for taking us more seriously than the leaders of the climate “science.”

Freeman Dyson, for example, was not trained as a physicist but as a mathematician. His contribution to quantum field theory was applying his mathematical skills to showing that Feynman’s work was mathematically rigorous and mathematically equivalent to another formulation due to Julian Schwinger (who shared the Nobel with Feynman). Freeman has spent the fifty years after this work switching from field to field, always making important contributions to these fields, and making them precisely because he has looked at the evidence from a different point of view.

Dick Lindzen actually is an insider in real climate science, but he is an insider who can’t be bought, an insider who follows the evidence rather than the grant money.

Will Happer is mainly an experimental atomic physicist, but a physicist who has a decades-old reputation for investigating extraordinary claims in all areas of physics.  Will was one of the experimentalists who exposed the cold fusion scam a number of years ago.

As for myself, I’m a cosmologist, with a special interest in the anthropic principle, as my National Academy of Sciences security police dossier correctly notes. Twenty odd years ago, I co-authored a book, published by Oxford University Press, on the anthropic principle. As my co-author and I pointed out, the essence of the anthropic principle is eliminating human bias from the interpretation of observations, and we focused mainly on eliminating such bias from cosmology.

“Seek the truth wherever thou mayest find it” has, sadly, become “seek grant money wherever thou mayest find it” for all too many.

For rather more refreshing reading, have a look at the website of Israeli astrophysicist Nir Shaviv,,  A couple of suggestions: “Cosmic rays and climate“, and “ClimateGate and the hockey stick: not news to me“.

Al Gore “massagegate/Poodlegate” and the Birkenstock Tribe

Elsewhere in the same article, an item on the sexual assault allegations against ManBearPig, er, Al Gore:

Presidents of Vice
Police in Portland, Ore., are reopening their investigation into allegations that Al Gore, the U.S. vice president turned Grammy-winning pseudoscience huckster, sexually assaulted a massage therapist in 2006 while visiting the City of Roses. Earlier this week, the Washington Examiner’s Byron York detailed the allegations made by the woman, who has not been named in the press:

Gore also requested work on his abdomen. When that began, “He became somewhat vocal with muffled moans, etc.,” the masseuse recounted. Gore then “demand[ed] that I go lower.” When she remained focused on a “safe, nonsexual” area, Gore grew “angry, becoming verbally sharp and loud.”

The masseuse asked Gore what he wanted. “He grabbed my right hand, shoved it down under the sheet to his pubic hair area, my fingers brushing against his penis,” she recalled, “and said to me, ‘There!’ in a very sharp, loud, angry-sounding tone.” When she pulled back, Gore “angrily raged” and “bellowed” at her.

Then, abruptly, the former vice president changed tone. It was “as though he had very suddenly switched personalities,” she recalled, “and began in a pleading tone, pleading for release of his second chakra there.”

The Associated Press reports that Gore “welcomes” the reopening of the investigation. A spokeswoman says “that Gore ‘unequivocally and emphatically’ denied making unwanted sexual advances. She added that ‘further investigation into this matter will only benefit Mr. Gore.’ ”

The AP adds:

After the alleged incident, the woman said she was dissuaded from contacting the police by liberal friends of hers, whom she refers to as “The Birkenstock Tribe,” and of which she counts herself a member.

“It’s like being the ultimate traitor,” the woman said.

The Birkenstock Tribe evidently has rather backward ideas about the sexes. If the circumstances alleged here were to arise in a more enlightened, Western culture, the man who abused the woman, not the victim, would be regarded as a traitor to the cause.

Full disclosure: I’ve always loathed Birkenstocks or similar footwear, but the woman’s interaction with her peer group looks extremely familiar, even though I encountered it in a radically different context. Welcome to the club, ma’am.

Elsewhere, the therapist described Al Gore in terms of, how shall I put this politely,a poodle rubbing against its owner’s leg. See also here on WARNING: you may need some brain bleach after reading the details given there.

“All poodles are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

UPDATE: On a more serious note, Ed Driscoll: “Dr. Strangegore, or How the International MSM Learned to Stop Worrying and Abandon Objectivity

Elena Kagan and Aharon Barak

SCOTUS nomnee Elena Kagan appears to be a big fan of Aharon Barak. Who is he, you wonder?

He was the longtime president of Israel’s BaGa”TZ (beit gavoha letzedek, Israel’s Supreme Court). Recognized by friend and foe as a brilliant legal mind, he acted as something like a legal philosopher-king who felt it was his duty to impose his enlightened vision on us benighted.

An activist’s activist judge, his most notorious quote is probably his assertion that “hakol shafit” (“everything is justiciable”/everything is subject to judicial review).

Granted, Barak operated in a legal vacuum a lot more often than his colleagues in the USA ever will, and Nature abhors a vacuum in law as well as in other things. And his activism was tempered somewhat by other factors, such as some degree of acccommodation of Israel’s security neeeds and a desire to recruit Supreme Court justices from perspectives other than his own.

in fact, this too is something he may have in common with Elena Kagan.

The Alien in the White House

No, don’t worry, I haven’t gone “nirther”, and neither has Dorothy Rabinowitz, who thus entitled her latest WSJ op-ed. She refers not to his place of birth, but to a state of mind.

The deepening notes of disenchantment with Barack Obama now issuing from commentators across the political spectrum were predictable. So, too, were the charges from some of the president’s earliest enthusiasts about his failure to reflect a powerful sense of urgency about the oil spill.

There should have been nothing puzzling about his response to anyone who has paid even modest critical attention to Mr. Obama’s pronouncements. For it was clear from the first that this president—single-minded, ever-visible, confident in his program for a reformed America saved from darkness by his arrival—was wanting in certain qualities citizens have until now taken for granted in their presidents. Namely, a tone and presence that said: This is the Americans’ leader, a man of them, for them, the nation’s voice and champion. Mr. Obama wasn’t lacking in concern about the oil spill. What he lacked was that voice—and for good reason.

Those qualities to be expected in a president were never about rhetoric; Mr. Obama had proved himself a dab hand at that on the campaign trail. They were a matter of identification with the nation and to all that binds its people together in pride and allegiance. These are feelings held deep in American hearts, unvoiced mostly, but unmistakably there and not only on the Fourth of July.

A great part of America now understands that this president’s sense of identification lies elsewhere, and is in profound ways unlike theirs. He is hard put to sound convincingly like the leader of the nation, because he is, at heart and by instinct, the voice mainly of his ideological class. He is the alien in the White House, a matter having nothing to do with delusions about his birthplace cherished by the demented fringe.

Read the whole thing.

1863: Government of the people, by the people, for the people.

2010: Government of the people, by the New Class, for the New Class and its anointed mascots.

The Harvard-Yale Supreme Court

Via a guestblogger at Insty, a prime example of the New Class sense of entitlement:

WELL, THAT’S ALL RIGHT THEN:  Dean Chris Edley (now of Berkeley, formerly of Harvard) explains why we shouldn’t worry our pretty little heads about a Harvard-Yale lock on the Supreme Court.  You see, any worries about elitism and a narrow vision of American values have been solved, by affirmative action:

The gatekeeper power of such institutions is why it was so important to desegregate them (using affirmative action, among other tools) and why virtually all leaders of great universities talk about diversity and access.

For about 40 years now, all the top law schools have tried to pick students who are not just brilliant but who have the potential to be outstanding leaders from and for all of America’s communities. Today, “elite” doesn’t carry the old-boy, classist, midcentury sense.

He’s right; it definitely carries more of a new-boy, classist, end-of-century sense of elitism.  Which must be why Dean Edley doesn’t even notice it.

Ouch. For the French version of this phenomenon, BTW, see “enarques” in Wikipedia.

VDH to 0bama: The USA is not a college and you are not a Dean

Victor Davis Hanson (a classics professor in his day job) comments on the disconnect between 0bama’s rhetoric and his actions, as well as the seemingly endless sequence of “that was yesterday” moments. He tries to make sense of them, and anybody who is familiar with (especially humanities) academe will wrily smile in recognition:

[N]either the press nor his chameleon followers quite explain what is going on. Instead, I think we, the American people, are seen by Obama as a sort of Ivy League campus, with him as an untouchable dean. So we get the multicultural bromides, the constant groupthink, and the reinvention of the self that we see so often among a professional class of administrator in universities (we used to get their memos daily and they read like an Obama teleprompted speech).  […T]he public does not grasp to what degree supposedly elite universities simply wa[i]ve their own rules when they find it convenient.

In academia, there are few consequences for much of anything; but in Obama’s case his legal career at Chicago seems inexplicable without publications (and even more surreal when Law Dean Kagan laments on tape her difficulties in recruiting him to the law school—but how would that be possible when a five- or six-book law professor from a Texas or UC Irvine would never get such an offer from a Chicago or Harvard?).

[…] On an elite university campus what you have constructed yourself into always matters more than what you have done. An accent mark here, a hyphenated name there is always worth a book or two. There is no bipartisanship or indeed any political opposition on campuses; if the Academic Senate weighs in on national issues to “voice concern,” the ensuing margin of vote is usually along the lines of Saddam’s old lopsided referenda.

In other words, Obama assumed as dean he would talk one way, do another, and was confident he could “contextualize” and “construct” a differing narrative—to anyone foolish enough who questioned the inconsistency. As we have seen with Climategate, or the Gore fraud, intent always trumps empiricism in contemporary intellectual circles. Obama simply cannot be held to the same standard we apply to most other politicians—given his heritage, noble intention, and landmark efforts to transform America into something far fairer.

Like so many academics, Obama becomes petulant when crossed, and like them as well, he “deigns” to know very little out of his field (from Cinco de Mayo to the liberation of Auschwitz), and only a little more in it. Obama voiced the two main gospels of the elite campus: support for redistributive mechanisms with other people’s wealth; and while abroad, a sort of affirmative action for less successful nations: those who are failing and criticized the U.S. under Bush proved insightful and worthy of outreach ( a Russia or Syria); but those who allied themselves with us (an Israel or Colombia) are now suspect.

[…] I think at some point Obama’s untruths, hypocrisies, and contradictions will, in their totality, finally remind the voter he is not a student.

After all, America is not a campus. It has real jobs that are not lifelong sinecures. Americans work summers. There are consequences when rhetoric does not match reality. Outside of Harvard or Columbia, debt has to be paid back and is not called stimulus. We worry about jobs lost, not those in theory created or saved. We don’t blame predecessors for our own ongoing failures. Those who try to kill us are enemies, whose particular grievances we don’t care much to know about. Diversity is lived rather than professed; temporizing is not seen as reflection, but weakness.

And something not true in not a mere competing narrative, but a flat-out lie.


Arbitrariness in government assistance

Conservative in the Closet has the dirt on government assistance to parents with disabled children in Canada, and how government bureaucrats decide on a semi-arbitrary basis whether or not you have too much money to need help.

For those of your without a disabled relative, it’s hard to imagine how expensive it can be to keep a disabled relative in the home.

For those dependent on technology for eating, breathing, or speaking, it gets even more expensive and complicated and life becomes form after form, endless paperwork with no inter-agency coordination. It is soul-crushing stuff.

I personally have had the experience of being told that my family made ‘too much money’ to be helped by our socialized system.

I had heard a rumour that this was an arbitrary determination, and heard of one family that had previously, succesfully sued the government to get 24 hour nursing support for a disabled child.

I was actually given an income table by a government worker assigned to “help” us.

The income table determined that we had too much income to need things like g-tube formula for my son which costs about $1500 per month.

Imagine my delight to find out that it was totally bullshit. They made up the guideline numbers-it’s not the law.

Basically, these mandarins have been arbitrarily playing G-d with families, making decisions about who can get help according to their own whims.

I believe this story has legs, and that more families like mine will pursue the government for what they are entitled to for their disabled relatives.

Welcome to the socialized medical system, where bean counters make decisions that affect the quality of your life on a daily basis, based on ZERO expertise, and ZERO legislation. Isn’t that comforting? They just made stuff up as they went along.

Read the whole thing.

There really are two Americas

WSJ: THE GOVERNMENT PAY BOOM.It turns out there really is growing inequality in America. It’s the 45% premium in pay and benefits that government workers receive over the poor saps who create wealth in the private economy. And the gap is growing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), from 1998 to 2008 public employee compensation grew by 28.6%, compared with 19.3% for private workers. In the recession year of 2009, with almost no inflation and record budget deficits, more than half the states awarded pay raises to their employees. Even as deficits in state capitals widen and are forcing cuts in services, few politicians are willing to eliminate these pay inequities.

[…] What if government workers earned the average of what private workers earn? States and localities would save $339 billion a year from their more than $2.1 trillion budgets. These savings are larger than the combined estimated deficits for 2010 and 2011 of every state in America. In a separate survey, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis compares the compensation of public versus private workers in each of the 50 states. Perhaps not coincidentally, the pay gap is widest in states that have the biggest budget deficits, such as New Jersey, Nevada and Hawaii. Of the 40 states that have a budget deficit so far this year, 28 would have a balanced budget were it not for the windfall to government workers.”

It used to be that government workers were paid salaries below market in exchange for greater job security (see this related post). Now we have a situation where government workers enjoy both higher salaries and greater job security than their private sector counterparts. This is what some people’s idea of “social justice” really entails: the New Class feathering its own bed (and that of its clients).