10.29.2014

Progressive Politics - Deadly for the Poor

Speaking of leftist political-economics as a way of screwing over the poor while feeling good about it, Charles C. W. Cooke points to this index from Salon - the seven cities that are playgrounds for the rich and horrors for the poor.

1. New York City
2. Los Angeles
3. San Francisco
4. Dublin
5. London
6. Nairobi
7. Jakarta

New York was getting better under Giuliani, stable under Bloomberg, and is now declining under its current mayor, de Blasio.  The first two were Republicans, although from the liberal end of the party - that is, they're liberal relative to midwest Republicans and conservatives like me.  Compared to your average Democrat, Giuliani was a Tea Partier and Bloomberg not far off from that.

But Los Angeles and San Francisco haven't had Republicans or conservatives in any positions of authority or power within the city for decades.

We could say the same about Chicago, with its astronomical murder rate (mostly Black-on-Black murders, by the way).  Detroit has destroyed itself and the last time they had a GOP mayor was back in the 1950s.  New Orleans was a model of corruption, graft, and incompetence for decades, too.  What wrecked that city during Hurricane Katrina wasn't Bush's response, but the years of Democrat machine politics that ran the town for all the years prior.

Although the Salon editors are careful to ascribe the problems in these cities to such horrors as "the sequester" and thus direct attention from the near-uniformly liberal/progressive political machines that run these poor men's horrors, it is in fact, as Kevin D. Williamson argues in his article about Detroit, progressivism that kills.  And those who feel the brunt of it are the very souls progressives claim to be helping.

I don't think much of that deadly effect is intentional on the part of the left.  I think they are sincerely troubled by poverty and suffering.  But there are two factors that lead them astray.  The first is the emotional response.  Their actions are geared most often towards assuaging the emotional anguish they feel when seeing poverty and pain, not towards actually assuaging the poverty and pain.  This is charity motivated by a desire to feel good about myself, not charity motivated by true compassion and love for another.  The other factor is that they are simply wrong about the way the world works.  Neither they nor the poor are as selfless as they see themselves.  Greed is not uniquely a rich man's problem.  Life is not static, so you can't solve poverty by simply giving the poor more money, and so on.

But whatever the source, progressive politics are deadly for the poor.

10.28.2014

Raising the Minimum Wage - A Way of Shafting the Poor While Feeling Good About It

According to polls, the initiated measure to hike the minimum wage and tie it to inflation is enjoying a slight lead.

That is not surprising, but it is a foolish measure, born out of demagoguery and class warfare rather than sound economics.

It will also hurt those its supporters claim it will help.  No, very few people will lose their jobs over it.  There will not be very many people who are told by their bosses, "I have to let you go - minimum wage has increased and I can't afford it."

But it will make them less likely to hire others.  It will make them look more intensely at ways to automate - it won't be long before you place your McDonald's order via a smart-phone app, pay via credit card, get a confirmation number, and then go pick it up.  There will be fewer working the till.  It's already happening in overseas locations where labor costs are inflated and regulations make it difficult to fire unproductive workers.

You also see it at chain restaurants like Applebees and Chilis, with the little kiosk at the table that allows you to order, play some games, pay, and leave without having to use a waiter or waitress.

Those self-check-out lanes at Walmart and Target, too, are part of the drive to automate in order to reduce labor costs.  

Those that can will also switch staff from basic pay susceptible to this minimum wage into forms of payment that get around them - commissions, tips, etc.  There are exceptions to every law, including the minimum wage law.  Rest assured accountants, HR personnel, and lawyers have already investigated ways to use those exceptions.

Unskilled workers who need to get some work experience and develop the kinds of habits necessary to be productive and therefore more valuable to these employers will find it much, much harder to get that experience.  This will force them into various credentialling programs that are already far too expensive, whether it be a college or tech school or some other post-secondary educational and credentialling service.  But if they can't afford to buy their credentials, and they can't get a job until they have such credentials, they're screwed.

No, a high school diploma will not be sufficient.  It already is insufficient for most jobs that pay above the minimum wage.

Right - you can't live on minimum wage.  So?  The jobs that pay this wage are entry level.  They are not intended to provide a living wage because almost everyone who has such a job has other sources of sustenance pending their ability to find higher paying work - which they will be able to do, once they have some experience and skills under their belts.  But if you raise the wage, you will take away opportunities to gain that experience and skill, leaving them dependent on the dole.

Raising the minimum wage is just a way of shafting the poor while feeling good about it.

10.24.2014

Sorry, But the City Is Correct

The city has a contest where various groups are invited to paint plows prior to their heading out into the city streets this winter.  It's not a bad idea and I think it's good that explicitly Christian groups are included in it.

But the city is correct to ask the Lutheran school to repaint the plow they've submitted.  If the blade were going on a private snow-plow operator's truck, even if that private snow-plow operator were sub-contracted by the city to plow certain streets or lots, it would be fine.  But it will be mounted on a city-owned vehicle.  As such, an explicit endorsement of Jesus Christ (or any other religious figure, such as Muhammed or Buddha) is not permitted by current case law.  The city must remain, and be perceived to remain, neutral.  The first amendment does not protect the Lutheran school in this case - they are not being denied a right to speak.  They are simply being denied the privilege of having their views proclaimed by city property.

One may or may not regret this status, but the line drawn by the US Supreme Court in matters like this is quite clear.

The school should look to a different way to present their message, perhaps more subtly.  A prairie scene that includes a church, for instance.  It's historical, simply a picture of an early Sioux Falls area scene.  It doesn't constitute an endorsement, but does point out the importance of Christianity in the White settlements.  Perhaps simply a picture of Luther superimposed on a Norwegian flag - which flag features a cross rather prominently - would do.

As the Gospels tell us, be wise as serpents, innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).

UPDATE: The city is still correct - on principle now, rather than law.  Mayor Huether has declared the city will not paint over the plow blades until/unless ordered to do so by a court.  Good for him.  It will go to a court, I'm sure.  Given the status of Supreme Court decisions since 1947, pretty much any court would order them painted over, but by the time that's done we will have entered the snow season and the wear and tear of use will take care of most of it.

As I've indicated in the comments, I think the Supreme Court is wrong in much of its jurisprudence on the question.  But I also think this particular case is fairly well settled and trying to unsettle this sort of thing is tilting at windmills right now.  The culture needs to be changed and the courts, like politics in general, follows culture.

Another Reason to Separate Sports from Schools

Division I NCAA has long since ceased to be a place where there are significant numbers of "student-athletes."  The commitment in time and energy required to play competitively at that level simply does not allow an athlete to be a scholar.

A scandal has unfolded at UNC Chapel Hill in which athletes were funneled to paper classes - classes where the students did not actually attend and the only grade was a term paper.  That paper, it seems, was often written by someone else.  Grade averages were thus maintained at a level permitting NCAA eligibility, but in the process the athlete was screwed over.  Reading specialist Mary Willingham found that one in twelve students in the money sports - football and basketball - was not able to read at a 3rd grade level.  Yet these athletes had been passed through middle school, high school, and now through college, given bogus diplomas and degrees, but not an education.

That fact speaks volumes - and none of it good - about high school athletics, too.

So far, the UNC scandal seems to be one of the more pervasive, but Ian Tuttle suggests in his article on the topic that it is by no means unique - an assertion I'm sure will surprise no one.  These teams are essentially farm teams for professional sports - farm teams financed and maintained by taxpayers and exorbitant tuition charges levied on legitimate students.  Bear in mind, that much of that exorbitant tuition paid is also financed by taxpayers through various grants, guaranteed loans, and other tax-funded scholarships.

There is no valid reasons why the multi-billion dollar enterprises of the NFL and NBA cannot pay for their own farm teams, just as Major League Baseball does.  They do not need taxpayer dollars or the massive distortions and perversions of educational institutions to maintain their businesses.

Tuttle accordingly suggests severing the connection between colleges and athletics.  Still have the PE courses if you like, but end intercollegiate athletics.  I would go even further.  Eliminate school sponsored athletic teams across the board, from middle school through university.  They too often distort and even pervert the school, shifting the focus away from their primary task.  If we still want taxpayer funded youth sports leagues, we can do that through city rec leagues.  It's not as if there won't be sports.  But the athletic and the educational institutions need a bit of separation all the way down the line.

UPDATE: Added link.

10.23.2014

Bush Didn't Lie About Chemical Weapons in Iraq - They Were There

It is interesting to finally see these things brought out in the open.  I never have understood why the discovery of large stockpiles of chemical weapons in Iraq was hidden from the American people, particularly since the claim they were absent was one of the chief themes of the anti-war crowd and their execrable "Bush lied, people died" chant.

Bush didn't lie about the chemical weapons being there.  Neither did his administration tell the truth.  They were there, and some of my Marines were put in jeopardy both by those chemical weapons and by the refusal to allow the information regarding their presence to be broadcast.  I do not understand the reasoning behind that decision.

Nor do I know why neither the Bush nor the Obama administrations have put a lot of time and effort into their destruction.

I do not expect apologies from the anti-war crowd, especially that part of it that hates America.  The part of the anti-war crowd that isn't really anti-war but just anti-Republican won't apologize, either for the lies and calumnies tossed about.  The information about these weapons would not have changed anything but the content of their lies and calumnies.

Nevertheless, I do feel more than a little vindicated by the final release of this information.  My actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those of my Marines and Sailors, as well as the actions of Airmen and Soldiers were honorable and in pursuit of the defense of this country.  We worked hard.  All of us sweat, some of us bled, and a few of us died to give the Iraqi people a shot at a better way of life.  It is disappointing that they have in large part squandered that opportunity, but I do not regret what we did to provide that chance.

We must now face the sad reality that the opportunity has been squandered.  The call of jihad has been more potent among muslims in that sad part of the world than has been the call of peace.  It does not surprise me, however disappointing it is.  

We have a couple options for how to treat this cancer.  One is surgery.  We go in and cut it out, destroy it, killing it by direct action.  The other is to try to shrink the cancer by medication and radiation, and then see if surgery need be done on the much smaller tumor.  Bush tried surgery, but was unwilling to take the knife to the most severe tumors.  Obama has been trying some palliative measures along with the occasional air strike or SpecWar op.  The Bush approach saw the tumor reduced in size, but not really contained or eliminated.  The Obama approach has seen the cancer grow and spread.

I favor the Bush approach, frankly.  We should not be opposed to deploying ground troops into Iraq for the defeat of ISIS.  We should welcome the opportunity to do so and we should be utterly ruthless.  Let the competing cancers attack each other in Syria, then take out whichever one remains at the end of it.  Degrade and disrupt Iran's efforts to spread it, up to and including direct action against them, especially to include the destruction of their nuclear weapons development program.  After this, it will be necessary to monitor the situation for signs of the cancer's return and strike it down whenever we see it.

Expensive?  Probably.  Beats dying, though.  And the jihadists of groups like ISIS are not after mere pushing us out of the Middle East.  They are after our destruction.

10.21.2014

Desperate Democrat in Iowa Resorts to Lawfare

Typical - when one is losing the argument, head for the courts.

The obscene prosecution of Tom DeLay in Texas, the absurd, frivolous charges leveled in the same Texas prosecutor's office against Governor Perry, the silly lawsuit filed here in South Dakota over EB-5, and now a frivolous lawsuit filed in Iowa that is being trumpeted in some news outlets as being "against" the GOP candidate there.  A Houston city government is waging lawfare against citizens engaged in the lawful protest against their government's high-handed actions.  A pair of Idaho ministers who run a wedding chapel have been ordered to perform same-sex weddings, contrary to their religious beliefs.

None of these really have anything to do with holding people accountable to the law.  They are instead using the courts to bully, bludgeon, intimidate, and silence opponents.

So also, this lawsuit in Iowa did not accuse the GOP candidate Ernst of anything other than not objecting when a male suggested the plaintiff's shoes weren't sufficiently classy a year and a half ago.  Tuttle asks, with some justification, if this poor, sensitive woman was so put-out by such a thing as to feel it necessary to resort to the courts, why has she waited until 3 weeks before an election some 17 months after the alleged incident?  No, the only reason this lawsuit was filed was to get the words "Ernst" and "Lawsuit" in the same headline.  It's the same reason the GOAC Democrats phrased their first question to Rounds as they did - let's get the words "Rounds" and "Stole" in the same sentence and hope the press picks it up.

In the Ernst case the press has done so, even to the point of misreporting the lawsuit.

Give money to the GOP and expect an IRS audit.  Support conservative political positions and don't be surprised if the EPA's SWAT team pays an unexpected visit.  At the very least, expect to be vilified in the press and find death threats in your mail.  Vote in somebody else's name and, as long as you vote for the Democrat, it's not a problem.  Stand outside a voting place with weapons (mostly clubs) intimating that you'll find out if they vote for the "wrong" candidate - perfectly okay if you're a Black Panther in Philadelphia.

It's all the rage to be anti-bullying these days, unless it's Democrats trying to use the courts, the bureaucracy, the press, the police, or just plain bullies to bully conservatives.  That's okay.  In fact, it's necessary.

Since the French Revolution and the rise of Bonaparte, almost every dictator that rose up in the West has risen on the rhetoric of "freedom" and "equality."  The Communists, the National Socialists, the dictators of post-colonial Latin America from Bolivar to the present, many of the post-colonial tyrants of Africa - they all mouth the words, but the grim reality is oppression, violence, tyranny.  The pairing of rhetorical espousing of freedom while practical effort is expended to suppress it is not unique to the modern Democrat party, and it is just as dangerous as it has been to other countries.  Don't think it can't happen here.

10.17.2014

The Power of Expectations

Expectations affect our vision tremendously, causing us to either see what we expect to see (even if it isn't there) or, if we cannot avoid its absence, see nothing at all.  Investigators - good ones - try to avoid having any expectations at all so that when they go to investigate they see what is actually there.

This was driven home to me by a phenomenon I noticed shortly after coming out to the Dakotas from Michigan several years ago.  When people from a forested state like Michigan come out to the prairies, their first response is, "It's so empty! There's nothing there!"  But there's plenty there on the prairies - vegetation, wildlife, terrain, sky, and more.  When people from the prairies go to a state like Michigan, their response is, "You can't see anything - there are all these trees in the way."  The trees aren't in the way.  They are the view.

I recently experienced this with a member responding to a sermon.  He saw the view - the trees - and even identified correctly the sermon's take-away.  And then said there was nothing there to take away.  What wasn't there was what he expected, so he noticed nothing.

We see this in regards to the discussion regarding Mike Rounds.  The headline from the news article is, "Bollen Deposition Shows Program with Little Oversight."  What does that mean, though?  If you expect Mike Rounds to be a lousy manager, you see that as proof that Mike Rounds was a lousy manager - he should have checked up on it more.  But if you expect Mike Rounds to be a good manager, you see that as evidence of good management - he delegated it, checked in once in a while and since things looked good, he spent his time on other concerns.

In fact, it proves neither.  The deposition doesn't even really show a program with little oversight.  It shows a program that was overseen very closely by Joop Bollen, intermittently by Richard Benda, and then more steadily by Pat Costello.  It shows a man who was (and likely is) self-confident and who prefers action to bureaucratic niceties - it's easier to get the paperwork to catch up to reality than trying to slow reality down to the cumbersome pace of government bureaucracies.  This is not an uncommon perspective among entrepreneurs like Mr. Bollen.  And it shows a state government, including the Board of Regents, willing to tolerate this as long as there aren't any problems.

Then there were problems.

This, too, isn't unusual in entrepreneurial settings.  Bollen, being confident and active, tries to assure his bosses that the problem (lawsuit) will be resolved and is really nothing - which it turned out to be.  He is not all that concerned about Northern Beef's bankruptcy, either - when you take risks, sometimes you lose.  That's why they call it "risk."

But those bosses, thinking about that uncomfortable feeling that comes when your particular piece of the bureaucracy is suddenly noticed by the voters, pulled in the reins.  Bureaucrats are, by nature, risk-averse and if they aren't, the pressure of the bureaucracy makes them so.  Quite naturally, they started trying to micromanage what can't be micromanaged.  These competing pressures cause the relationships underlying the program to collapse.

To me, none of this shows any serious managerial deficiencies, dishonesty, or anything else that even closely approximates a scandal.  What it shows is the inherent tension between the pressures, incentives, and objectives of government, and the pressures, incentives, and objectives of business.  This strongly suggests to me the folly of private-public partnerships, of government efforts to "manage" markets, and the need to recognize the limitations of both government and private enterprise.

But then, you might just say that this is what I expected.