And with regard to my post about Obama screaming in hysteric anger after Netanyahu explained that Israel was not going to commit suicide at Obama’s behest, I realize that I forgot the pivotal sarcastic question: Weren’t we assured during the run-up to the election that he was going to be “No Drama Obama”? Looks like someone lied to us….
This post tells the story of a case on which I worked. It’s a true story.
Picture this: It’s 2001. You live in California and you own a small business that consists of you and maybe three to five at-will employees. Your profits are decent.
One morning, Jane, one of your employees, announces that she’s quitting, effective immediately, and stalks out. You know — or think you know — your California law, which requires that, when an employee quits, you have her payment ready within three days of her departure. (That would be Calif. Lab. Code § 202.) You therefore immediately prepare Jane’s final paycheck, covering the two hours she worked before she quit.
One day goes by, but no Jane. Two days, but still no Jane. On the third day, you actually drive over to her last known address to drop off the check, only to discover it’s a vacant apartment. You head back to the office, check still in hand. Jane didn’t ask that you mail the check to her, nor do you have a current address, so for the time being, you just hold on to it.
On the fifth day after quitting, Jane shows up, grabs the paycheck, and again disappears. You breath a sigh of relief, thinking you’re finally done with Jane. If only you knew, the story is just beginning….
A month goes by, and you suddenly get a notice from the California Labor Commissioner telling you that Jane is claiming that you violated California law. Your crime? You did not get Jane’s final paycheck to her within three days of her quitting. Since you had the paycheck ready immediately, and her failure to receive it was solely the result of her own unavailability, you laugh at this charge, thinking you’ve got a slam dunk case.
You show up on the assigned day to argue your case before the Labor Commissioner. The Labor Commissioner announces that the three day rule means the employee must have the money in hand by the end of the third day — regardless of either your efforts to pay her or her lack of effort to receive the money. To punish you, the Labor Commissioner imposes statutory sanctions (or “waiting time penalties”) against you, and insists that you pay Jane an amount 27 times greater than the wages she was actually owed.
Shocked by the unfairness of it all, you hire an attorney, who tells you that you’re right — you complied with your statutory duty, and the Labor Commissioner erred. The attorney tells you that this is indeed a slam dunk case, and that you should appeal it, which means filing an original action in Superior Court. Sounds good to you….
The case goes to trial. Jane is represented by the Labor Commissioner, so this is a freebie for her — the people of the State of California, through their tax dollars, are paying Jane’s attorneys fees. The judge appears confused by the issues and eventually announces what he believes is a Solomonic ruling. He holds that, despite the statute’s clear language — Calif. Labor Code § 202 explicitly imposes on the employer only the burden of having payment ready, not the burden of ensuring that the employee receives payment — you should have gotten the payment directly to Jane. However (and this is where the Solomon part comes in) the judge will halve the sanctions award against you.
While miffed at the fact that you couldn’t get the judge to agree with you entirely, you still leave the Court with a light heart — after all, you got the original award against you cut by 50%, which must be viewed as a clear victory. Au contraire, my innocent California employer.
In 2001 — when these events took place — the attorneys fee statute governing appeals from Labor Commissioner awards imposed attorney fees and costs against a party who appeared before the Court and was “unsuccessful in the appeal.” (That was Calif. Lab. Code § 98.2(c), repealed.) However, as of 2001, two California decisions had held that this facially-neutral language didn’t really mean what it said.
Instead, said the two cases, what that facially neutral language really meant was that, if an employee appealed a Labor Commissioner award and bettered his position by even a penny, he was deemed successful on the appeal, so that the employer would have to pay the employee’s (or, really, the tax funded Labor Commissioner’s) attorneys fees. The contrary, however, was not true. If an employer appealed a Labor Commissioner award and bettered his position by 99.9999%, but not by 100%, he was deemed unsuccessful. He therefore still got to pay the employee’s (or, rather, the Labor Commissioner’s) attorney fees.
What this meant for Jane’s employer was that, even though she managed to better her position on appeal by 50% — she still lost! She still got to pay the Labor Commissioner’s attorneys fees at fair market value.
The situation in 2001 was therefore as follows: No rational employer could take the risk of an appeal from a Labor Commissioner award, since there was a huge chance that the employer, whether entirely or even partially correct, would still end up with a judgment requiring him to pay something, even a nominal something, to the employee. (Judges hate giving employees nothing.) If that happened on appeal, the employer will be responsible for the oh-so-costly attorneys fees, fees that were usually far in excess of the underlying wage dispute.
And when you stop and think about it, this perverted reading of a facially neutral statute was a green light to the Labor Commissioner to do some nasty stuff. Begin with the fact that Labor Commissioner employees are generally unsympathetic to employers. This non-intuitive, twisted, backwards reading of a facially neutral statute gave these employees an incentive to ratchet up sanctions against employers to ridiculous amounts, because the Labor Commissioner employees knew that the employer couldn’t afford an appeal. Even if the employer prevailed on the appeal by lowering the sanction to a more reasonable amount, the employer would still be impossibly burdened by the Labor Commissioner’s attorneys fees.
Keep in mind, too, that these attorneys fees were a complete windfall for the Labor Commissioner, since Commission attorneys are automatically paid by the State of California for their efforts. And last I heard, when they receive attorneys fees from some hapless employer, the Labor Commissioners offices are not refunding the taxpaying citizens in that amount.
Bad as the above-described situation sounds, it actually got worse after 2001. There was a brief, shining moment in 2002/2003 when the California Supreme Court, in a burst of profound rationality, said that courts couldn’t take a facially neutral attorneys fee statute, and read it to impose disproportionate burdens on employers. (That moment of common sense was brought to you by Smith v. Rae-Venter Law Group (2002) 29 Cal. 4th 345.) That was too good to last, of course.
Here’s the “got worse” part: In 2003, the California legislature announced its explicit intention to overturn Smith v. Rae-Venter. The current version of the fee shifting statute now gouges the employer in no uncertain terms: “If the party seeking review by filing an appeal to the superior court is unsuccessful in the appeal, the court shall determine the costs and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by the other parties to the appeal, and assess that amount as a cost upon the party filing the appeal. An employee is successful if the court awards an amount greater than zero.” (See Calif. Lab. Code § 98.2(c).)
There is now no possibility of another Smith v. Rae-Venter decision helping hapless employers. The Legislature has declare in no uncertain terms that the employer can avoid paying the employee’s attorneys fees (read, “the Labor Commissioner’s fees”) only if the employer walks out of Court owing the employee nothing — and obtaining that outcome, especially in liberal courts in the Bay Area or L.A., is a pretty big risk for any small employer to take. This means that employers simply have to swallow the cost when a greedy employee manages to get the ear of a Labor Commissioner who believes it’s fine to impose disproportionate sanctions against a hapless employer, so as as that sanction will benefit a “downtrodden” employee.
Why does this sad story matter? It matters because this little bit of social engineering — unknown to most people — is driving business out of California. I personally know of at least two businesses that have just packed up and moved to other states precisely to avoid these kind of hidden costs. Those oh-so-clever judges misinterpreting the law before 2002, and the “compassionate” Legislature enacting unfair laws in 2003, all think their good intentions say it all. They truly believe they’re insulating poor, downtrodden employees from the risk of attorneys fees.
What they’re not thinking about, though, is the fact that these employees will be even more downtrodden when businesses keep pulling out of California, leaving the State without enough jobs — and the government without enough taxpayers to run itself.
There’s a reason I’m telling this story today: it’s because the problem I’ve described above is not limited to the state level. The National Labor Relations Board has held that Boeing cannot build a plant in South Carolina:
In a stunning move well beyond the scope of their legal mandate, the Obama Administration appointee controlled National Labor Relations Board is suing Boeing Corporation for, get this, building a second production line for their new Dreamliner passenger plane in South Carolina rather than in Washington state.
South Carolina is a right to work state whose voters this past November overwhelmingly amended their state’s constitution to ensure that a worker has the right to vote on whether they want to be represented by a labor union. The workers at the Boeing plant in South Carolina have also taken the bold step of booting out the union that represented them, effectively ending the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers stranglehold on Boeing production.
Now, Obama’s NLRB is attacking Boeing’s job creation in South Carolina as “union retaliation” directly related to a 2008 labor strike which crippled Boeing’s production in Washington state.
Now that those state governments that are in thrall to unions and labor have made it virtually impossible to do business in State A, the federal government is upping the ante by making it illegal for a business to move to State B. I’ll reiterate here what I often say: The Left may call them corporate fat cats or “rich people,” but I call them employers. When you make it impossible for them to do business, they’re going to leave. And if you make it impossible to leave, they’re going to die on the vine, leaving both State A and State B without jobs.
Cross-posted at Right Wing News
A classic Seinfeld episode concerned George Costanza’s decision (at Kramer’s urging) to park in a handicapped zone. This being George, things went drastically wrong. What I remember from the episode, though, isn’t the cascading sequence of disasters; instead; it’s the opprobrium heaped upon George for parking in the blue. His parking decision wasn’t treated as a misdemeanor, an illegal act, an inconvenience, or an act of selfishness. It was treated as a moral wrong. It was the equivalent of spitting on the altar.
That episode keeps cycling through my head, because the other day I too committed a moral crime. I criticized teachers. Yup. One of my facebook friends fulminated about the fact that his daughter’s American history teacher was a vast reservoir of misinformation. I agreed: “Some teachers are really dreadful.” That was my spitting on the altar moment. I was told that I was condescending; I was told that teachers shouldn’t be scapegoated all the time; I was told that parents have a responsibility too; I was told that teaching is a noble profession; and I was told that there are bad lawyers out there, so I have no right to criticize teachers.
None of this personal invective altered two truths: my friend was venting about an actual bad teacher, and I stated, perfectly correctly, that some teachers are really dreadful. I heaped more coal on the fire by noting these two truths and by adding that, in a free market, one can criticize bad lawyers, getting rid of them, and leaving the field open for good lawyers to bloom and prosper.
Somehow, in the last few years, teachers have become above criticism. This is separate from the fact that the pact between teacher’s unions and governments means that they can’t be fired. In a logical universe, this pact, which cements bad teachers in place, would increase the rumble of criticism against teachers. But at precisely the same time that tenured teachers became permanent fixtures, no matter their incompetence, Leftist societal morality also said “you cannot criticize teachers.” This was not a coincidence. It’s the only way to protect the public schools from perpetual parental outrage.
The funny thing is that, at bottom, I truly respect teachers. Or more accurately, I respect good teachers. Teacher is a challenging j0b, although it can be a rewarding one. (The same is true for most other jobs, when done well.) Teaching is not an overwhelmingly profitable job, but it can provide a decent lower to middle class lifestyle. (The same is true for most other jobs, when done well.) Teaching requires a certain amount of training and education. (The same is true for myriad other jobs.) You get my point — teaching is a job. It requires training and hard work. Some days are boring, some fulfilling. The income is okay, although you’ll never get rich.
But only teachers, if they put in the time, cannot get fired and, apparently, only teachers cannot get criticized. Theirs is a job like everyone else’s — only different.
If I was a good teacher — and there are so many good teachers out there — I’d be hacked off at this situation. Permanent employment is nice, but the accompanying degradation of ones professional is less nice. The fact that one is not allowed to say evil of teachers doesn’t mean one isn’t thinking evil. Moreover, the fact that people cannot criticize teachers (or, as I’ve discovered as a parent, oust the bad ones from the classroom), means that the teaching profession is denied the opportunity to cull out deadwood and correct mistakes. Teachers are like a garden run wild, with the healthy plants dying as the weeds and poison ivy take over.
As an honest black person in Britain said, this type of “positive discrimination” is as damaging as the old kind of negative discrimination once was. It tarnishes the brand, whether the brand is race, color, creed, sexual orientation, or teaching certificate.
One of my “crossing the Rubicon” moments came upon me about twenty years ago, when I went to the main branch of the old San Francisco public library (before it moved to its snazzy, very expensive new digs), and tried to check out a book. I found myself standing in a line of about 60 people, all waiting to check out their books.
Standing on tip-toe (remember, I’m short), I was able to see that there were three active stations, each with a library employee checking out the books. Considering that checking out books isn’t “rocket surgery,” I was at a loss to figure out why it was taking so long. I discovered the problem when I got to the head of the line: the clerks weren’t trying very hard. To be honest, they weren’t trying at all. Watching molasses drip on a cold day would be a more scintillating experience than watching these public servants processing the public. To add insult to injury, they were rude too.
I walked out thinking this to myself: “I doubt anyone of those clerks is paid more than about $28,000 per year, plus benefits. That’s $84,000 cash per year, not including the benefits. Why don’t they just hire one good person for $50,000 (plus benefits, of course), and get the job done right at a savings to the City of $34,000 per year, plus two unused benefits packages? But of course, that couldn’t happen. The unions would never go for it. Their goal is to have as many employees as possible who, once they get their jobs, can never be fired, no matter how shoddy their work. This isn’t about serving San Franciscans, this is about maximum employment for union members.”
I walked out of that library much more conservative than when I walked into that library.
This memory came back to me courtesy of an Instapundit post (hat tip: Earl):
MORE ON THOSE UNDERFUNDED / OVERGENEROUS PUBLIC PENSIONS: Report: SF Pension Crisis Much Worse than City Claims: Adachi-commissioned analysis puts gap at $6.8 billion–not official figure of $1.6 billion. “The city’s pension fund is officially underfunded by $1.6 billion. Nation’s study argues that the pension fund is relying on a 7.75 percent annual rate of return that is unrealistic over the long term. The study argues for 6.2 percent, which it says was the average rate of return in the capital markets from 1900 through 1999.” Frankly, that “conservative” number looks overoptimistic to me. 4% is probably more realistic.
At about 4:30 PST, two headlines just came down the pike, following the Wisconsin Senate votes:
Wisconsin anti-union measure must pass Assembly before it can go to Gov. Walker for signature
More on Wisconsin anti-union vote: No Democratic senators were present – AP
I’d like to rephrase them:
Wisconsin pro-taxpayer measure must pass Assembly before it can go to Gov. Walker for signature
More on Wisconsin pro-taxpayer vote: No Democratic senators were present — AP
Once again, the liberals are framing the debate, aren’t they?
The core problem, which this video illustrates, is that the government forces public sector employees to pay dues to public sector unions, that then use those dues to buy elections, to place into power politicians who raise taxes to pay ever higher government salaries and pensions. This has nothing to do with fairness, and everything to do with an inherently corrupt system that sees Democratic politicians and union leaders use other people’s money to maintain their power bases:
Paul Krugman has a bully pulpit in the New York Times. Its numbers may be declining under Pinch’s overlordship, but it still remains “the paper of record” to a lot of people with their hands in or near the power trough. Paul Krugman’s readers respect him because (a) he holds their elitist Left outlook and (b) he has Nobel Prize. The latter assures them that he is a reliable source.
The problem for Krugman’s readers is that they’ve missed out on one essential feature of Krugman’s writing and analysis — he is profoundly lazy. Comfortably encased in his ideology, he trolls the internet for facts that support his argument, without ever bothering to determine whether those facts are honest, credible or valid. Worse, he has completely abandoned his own analytical abilities, and makes no effort to determine whether the facts he cites are relevant to his argument. Conservative commentators have repeatedly caught him making outrageous misstatements that arise because of his appalling laziness.
The latest to catch him is Iowahawk, who has abandoned scathing humor for straightforward reporting. This is a really important one, because it shows that Krugman’s wrongness is 180 degrees. He gets things exactly bass ackward, and is using his bully pulpit to spread gross untruths about public sector unions and collective bargaining.
We all learned in school about the Triangle factory fire in New York back in 1911. The fire started and too many women died in significant part because of horrible working conditions the factory owners were able to impose on economically trapped women. The fire was a PR disaster for management in America, and a huge aid to the development of private sector unions. Since the 100th anniversary is drawing near, both PBS and HBO have shows lined up about the event. The New York Times TV reviewer is excited, because he seems to hope that these shows will help boost sympathy to union protesters in Wisconsin and, now, other states too:
As demonstrations in support of Wisconsin’s public-employee unions proliferate, PBS can pat itself on the back for scheduling the documentary “Triangle Fire” on Monday night — more than three weeks before the 100th anniversary of the New York garment-factory blaze it details, which figures so strongly in the imagination of the American labor movement.
I wonder if the reviewer ever wakes up at 3 a.m. and thinks, “What the hell kind of crap am I peddling?” Because, really, is there any equivalence between these two scenarios?
Scenario A: Immigrant women labor under appalling conditions (60-80 hours a week), starvation wages, no job security whatsoever, and factory conditions so dangerous that, ultimately, 146 die in a single day, having leaped from windows to escape encroaching flames and locked doors.
Scenario B: College graduates work a seven month year for the government and, once they’ve received lifetime job security, earn a total compensation package in excess of the average non-government worker in their community. Further, these graduates are forced by law to pay money to a union that, in turn, hands that money over to a political party that, in turn, sets the wages for the union members, who then are forced by law to pay part of those wages to a union that, in turn . . . well, you get the corrupt cycle I’m describing here.
I hope that Americans are wiser than New York Times television reviewers and realize that, while we want our teachers to have living wages and safe working conditions, both for their own benefit and for the good of our children, the scam that’s currently in place with public sector unions is grotesque, unsustainable, and totally unrelated to the tug of war that occurs between labor and management in the private sector.
It’s a good video:
Here’s the real point: If you want to work for government (which can be a very honorable or practical or neutral thing to do), you are forced to pay union dues. You know, when you pay those dues that they will be used to fund the Democrats. This is true whether or not you, personally, want to fund the Democrats.
Once elected, the Democrats shower benefits on the public sector unions, since that ensures that the unions will then shower money right back on the Democrats. What’s important to remember is that these elected Democrats are your employees, just as the public sector workers are. Nevertheless, you, the tax payer, have been cut out of the loop. Instead, there’s an endlessly cycling mutually beneficial relationship going on between unions and benefits, that you’re paying for. I think it’s called taxation without representation. (Hmm…. Where have I heard that expression before?)
Taranto is always good. Sometimes, though, he’s great. That’s the case for his column today, which discusses (a) the difference between public and private sector unions and (b) the difference between Tea Party and union protests. He’s not saying anything you haven’t heard before or figured out for yourself; it’s just that he says it so well.
Roger Simon, among others, has noted that the demonstrations in Madison demonstrate how old-fashioned the modern Left is, something that’s true despite the Left’s attempt to re-brand itself with the name “Progressive.” It therefore seemed appropriate for me to run again an article I wrote for American Thinker back in September 2007. My section on the unions (“Look for the union label”) seems prescient now.
Language is anything but static, something for which we must be grateful. It’s the dynamism of the English language that, at the high end, gives us Chaucer, Shakespeare, Pope, Dickens, and at the low end, gives us the liveliness of slang and dialect.
One of the interesting things about English’s constant, beneficial mutations is the fact that some terms which start off as merely descriptive begin to degrade in meaning, eventually ending as insults. For example, the now archaic word “beldam” started off as a grand old lady and ended up meaning a miserable hag. “Spinster” originally described a woman who spins, but came to mean a desiccated, narrow minded old virgin. Another word that ended with a completely degrade meaning was “bedlam,” which describes a completely insane situation, but that had its genesis in Christ’s natal town of Bethlehem.
And then there’s the word “liberal.” It comes from the Latin “liber,” meaning free, so the word “liberal” originally referred to one committed to freedom. Over time, however — indeed, in our lifetime — it came to mean one thing: someone who could not win an election. Clearly, it was time for a change.
Liberals, after some bold attempts to reclaim the title for themselves (and they’ve got the bumper stickers to prove it), decided to jettison the term entirely and come up with a new word to describe themselves. They are now “Progressives.” The word “progressive” means to advocate beneficial change and progress, and that’s certainly what Progressives would have the American people believe they offer.
By giving themselves this label, however, the Progressives have proven yet again that there’s no delusion quite as powerful as self-delusion. The fact is that, if you pick apart each of the Progressives’ stands on any major issue of the day, you’ll see that either they have staked out positions that were either proven false or ineffective decades ago, or they’re still fighting battles that were long ago won, making their efforts redundant (yet still, somehow, harmful to the modern political process).
One, two, three, four, No way will we win this war
The most visible example of the Progressives’ tendency to live in the past is their compulsive urge to view the Iraq War as if it was a movie sequel entitled The Vietnam War, Part II. This was apparent within minutes of the War’s inception, when Progressives (both in and out of the media) were already labeling it a quagmire. They looked for and found their My Lai massacre when the Abu Ghraib scandal and the Haditha affair came to light.
Showing admirable tenacity, the Progressives have clung to these few 1960s/1970s lodestones despite some pesky details that run counter to their Vietnam narrative. For one thing, there was the fact that, in the months leading up to the War, Saddam Hussein worked hard to convince UN inspectors that he had WMDs. If this was true (and they’re in Syria or elsewhere right now), he invited the War on himself and his long suffering people.
If it was Saddam issuing propaganda aimed at aggrandizing his stature amongst the rogue nations of the world, no one can be blamed for bombing his nuclear Potemkin Village. Certainly he’d actually built that faux village on a solid foundation, since few could doubt that someone who would gleefully use poison gas to massacre his own people would hesitate to use it against foreign enemies, given the chance.
Another problem for the Regressives… er, Progressives… is the nature of Saddam’s Iraq itself. Vietnam had the bad luck to be caught between opposing Communist forces, with Vietnam the battered football in the middle. Iraq was quite a different kettle of fish. In a region that distinguishes itself as the land of repressive regimes, Saddam stood out as a star. In addition to the Halabja massacre (see above), Saddam brutally tortured and murdered his own people, committed ecoterrorism to drive out disfavored ethnic groups, gave free reign to his sadistic sons with the hope that they’d eventually rule Iraq, invaded neighboring sovereign nations, and is believed to have murdered around 200,000 of his own people. Under Hussein, Iraq was not an unwitting international football kicked around in the Cold War, it was a time bomb waiting to explode.
None of these icky little facts deter the Progressives. For them, it’s always 1974 all over again and they urge us on to the one lesson they learned from the Vietnam War: the U.S. should turn tail and run. Sadly for Iraqis and Americans, the Progressives are careful to freeze their historic memories to fix on that (to them) wonderful moment when people raced to the rooftops of buildings, desperate to board the last U.S. helicopters. Memory carefully stops before it reaches the reeducation camps in North Vietnam or the Killing Fields of Cambodia. For Progressives, useful as the past is to define their current-day agenda, some history lessons are better left unlearned.
‘I believe it is peace in our time.”
When it comes to terrorists, Progressives show a true sense of retro style, turning the Way Back machine to the 1930s, with Neville Chamberlain as their role model. For those who are not conversant with Chamberlain’s dealings with Hitler, they are instructive.
Immediately upon assuming power in 1933, Hitler began to use violence and intimidation within Germany in order to achieve his political and social goals. To the extent that he went after Communists, many in Europe and, especially, in Britain, were not unsympathetic to his goals, even if they deplored his tactics. They were less sympathetic to, but perfectly willing to ignore, his attacks on Jews, gays, clergyman, gypsies, and the mentally and physically handicapped. These were, after all, internal affairs and (I’m sure this was said with the inevitable shrug), “what can one do?”
Europe’s ability to look the other way changed in 1938 when Hitler, feeling limited by turning his aggression on his own people, began turning his energies outward. In March 1938, after having already procured the assassination of an Austrian Chancellor, Hitler invaded Austria in what became known as the Anschluss. (And it’s no credit to Austria that large numbers of its citizens were delighted with this turn of events.) Although this was a complete violation of all international law, and was clearly an act of war, Chamberlain’s government sat passively by.
Then, in September 1938, when Hitler began to rumble about the Sudetenland, which Germany had lost to Czechoslovakia after World War I, Chamberlain went to Berlin to meet with Hitler. Hitler quickly got the measure of the man and offered Chamberlain an either/or solution to the Sudetenland issue: Either Britain assist Germany’s plans to annex the Sudetenland or Hitler would invade Czechoslovakia and take it back himself. Overawed by Hitler’s reasoning, Neville Chamberlain quickly agreed to the “either” part of that plan and executed the Munich Agreement. Proud of his negotiating skills, which gave Hitler the power and geographical range instantly to overrun Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain returned to England and boasted to the British people that
“this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace in our time.”
The 1930s peace crowd took those words seriously. Despite Hitler’s increasingly aggressive acts throughout the 1930s, both inside and outside Germany, and despite Hitler’s clearly expressed threats to take over Europe and destroy all whom he deemed inferior, Chamberlain and the peace party that support him were “shocked, shocked” when Hitler, appropriately viewing the Munich Agreement as a carte blanche from supine European leaders, first invaded Czechoslovakia, then Poland, and then tried to take on the world.
Chamberlain’s incredible naiveté in believing that it was possible to have peace with a tyrant bound and determined to control and kill anyone who affected his power meant that, within seven years of the Munich Agreement, through genocide, the ordinary and tragic casualties of war, and battle deaths, as many as 72 million people are estimated to have died. One can only conclude that Chamberlain got “peace with honor” confused with the Roman idea, which was to “make a desert and call it peace.”
If the above narrative sounds uncomfortably familiar, it should, and I’m not just saying this because you probably studied World War II in school (or, at least, you did if you’re over 30). The so-called Progressives are closely mimicking Chamberlain’s behavior. They’re thrilled with Bin Laden’s reasoning, especially since he sounds uncannily like their own Progressive leaders. They want us to do everything that Bin Laden and his minions advise: withdraw from Iraq, jettison Israel, and remove any Western presence from Saudi Arabia (except, of course, for the petrodollars).
The Progressive’s antiquated appeasement standards are even better displayed with Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York. Let me remind you here that Ahmadinejad may have been part of the 1979 hostage crisis, that he’s repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel entirely, and that he’s determined to become a nuclear power, which poses a threat to all Western interests. But who cares? Bully boys are always treated well by appeasers. This time, not only were the Progressive appeasers excited to give him a forum at the once prestigious Columbia University in New York, they’ve gave him airtime on American TV courtesy of 60 Minutes.
And just to put the whole matter of the Progressives’ fawning over Ahmadinejad in its proper retro perspective, in 1933 Columbia happily offered the red carpet to a high ranking Nazi official. One could argue that, in 1933, it wasn’t quite so obvious how terrible the Nazis were to become, but Columbia President Lee Bollinger has killed that argument already. He announced that he would have invited Hitler to speak too. Keep in mind that even Chamberlain didn’t invite Hitler to London.
We’re having a baby, my baby and me.
One of the most retrograde areas in Progressive thought concerns abortion rights — and I think you’ll agree with me whether you are pro-Choice or pro-Life.
A couple of years ago, I found myself at the abortion rights webpage for the National Organization of Women. What struck me right away was how dated the organization’s position was regarding abortion. At that time, to make its point about the need for legalized abortions, it led with photographs of four women who died from abortions. Following the link, I was led to the story of seven women who died from botched abortions. The years of death were 1929, 1929, 1940, 1950, 1967, 1977 and 1988. The dates are significant, since only the last two occurred after abortion became legal.
The death in 1977 was blamed on the fact that the dead woman was denied public funding for her abortion; the death in 1988 was blamed on a young woman afraid to seek parental consent for a legal abortion. Thus, with the exception of the 1977 and 1988 abortions, all the highlighted deaths occurred in times when birth control options were nil to limited, and when the stigma of pregnancy for unmarried women was extraordinarily high. The 1988 abortion was also a “stigma” abortion, since the girl was afraid to tell her parents.
There is no doubt that, if you are pro-Choice, either whole heartedly or in a lukewarm kind of way, there are, in 2007, still arguments to make in favor of abortion — rape, incest, a high risk pregnancy, a woman’s right to control her body, etc. The old reasons, however, just don’t apply anymore. Aside from the easy availability of myriad forms of birth control, nowadays the average accidental pregnancy may well be difficult or inconvenient, but it is no longer social death. Women are not turned out at night into snow storms, women do not become community pariahs, women are not forever tainted because of having an “illegitimate” pregnancy and, despite NOW’s focus on teen abortions and parental consent, it’s the rare news story that concerns a teen dying of a back alley abortion in those states requiring parental consent. It may certainly be embarrassing for a woman to admit to a pregnancy, but it is no longer the end of life on earth as women know it. Certainly the abortion debate would be more honest, if less emotional, if the “Progressives” were to debate abortion in the here and now, instead of in the then and gone.
We Shall Overcome
Perhaps ashamed that during both major Civil Rights battles (the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movements), Democrats allied themselves against African Americans, modern Progressives not only proclaim themselves the defenders of Civil Rights in America, but they also continue to wage the battle against racism as if it’s still Selma, 1964. In the Progressive world, racial oppression is an omnipresent aspect in the fabric of American life, with every white American (who isn’t Progressive, of course) a slavering racist anxious to degrade and dehumanize blacks.
To Progressives, something like the Jena 6 is a beautiful thing, because it proves their point — America is a racist nation, and they can board their protest busses and bravely take a seat at the segregated lunch counters of their fantasies. What they seem incapable of realizing is that even government conduct as suspect as that in the Jena 6 case reveals how far America has come since the actual Civil Rights movement. I’m probably not the first to notice that Jena 6 is a cause celebre, not because it’s happening all over America, or even all over the South, but because it’s anomalous.
White America is not routinely scapegoating black America. Indeed, the most recent racially motivated scapegoating saw a white Southern politician attempt to destroy the lives of several white defendants in an effort to curry favor with the local black community. (That would be the alleged Duke rape, for those of you scratching your heads over my allusion.) It’s also worth pointing out that the Jena 6 case is not the traditional “whites are bad, blacks are scapegoated” scenario, but seems to be an uglier and broader slice of race warfare amongst the young’uns, with each side enthusiastically threatening and otherwise terrorizing its opponent.
There is no doubt that there are still Americans who are racists, and it behooves each and every American to target that racism where it lies. But we make a grave mistake if we (for “we” read “Progressives”) pretend that the institutional racism of the Jim Crow South is still a looming factor in the lives of African-Americans. That kind of historical yearning means that, every three years or so, when something bad happens to African-Americans (and I don’t deny that bad things happen), Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton can race over to relive their own glory days in the early 1960s, all the while obscuring the fact that we live in a much less racially charged world. This kind of 1960s theater in the 21st Century does two terrible things: it continuously inflames the African American sense of grievance, something both psychologically and practically damaging; and it helps grow two dangerous emotions in white Americans when it comes to race: ennui and resentment.
Look for the union label
Unions were a necessity in the early days of the industrial revolution. Workers were so spectacularly abused in those days (in part because they had limited mobility when it came to looking for greener employment pastures) that only by united action were they able to shift the employer/employee dynamic away from mind-bogglingly brutalizing practices. (See, for example, the successful 1888 strike that forced the British government to legislate against the horror of phossy jaw, a phosphorous based cancer that afflicted 19th and 20th century workers in match factories.) Unionization is still useful today in highly dangerous industries where the risks of employment go beyond the economic and into life and death scenarios – and this is especially true in the chemical industry, where the employer has information the employee lacks and has the ability to control environmental safety which, again, is something the individual employee cannot do.
Having said that, most unions today are not useful at all, but are redundant victims of their own success. Thanks to decades of union action, the federal government and all the States have wage and hour laws, labor commissions (most of which are usually very hostile to the employer), occupational safety and health laws, mandatory retirement plans, minimum wage laws, etc. All of these, of course, were worker protections that unions fought for and won.
The problem is that, once you’ve done what you came for, what’s left? Well, for a lot of unions, aside from a huge effort negotiating salaries for the union bosses and a de minimus effort doing the same for union members, what’s left is a bullying style that tries to infringe on management prerogatives by dictating how the business should be run. The most obvious example of that trend can be found in the teacher’s unions, which routinely try to control both the broader political process and the classroom curriculum, all the while pressuring their employer (that would be you, through your agent, the government), to continue employing them without regard to performance standards.
Despite all this, for the Progressives, unions are the only things that stand between American workers and the 19th Century factory system of 12 hours, at salaries equal to mere pennies, in horrible unsafe conditions. It’s as if the social and political changes affecting employees during the last 100 years never happened. Instead, only by emphasizing working conditions that, in most cases, no longer exist, can Progressives keep alive an institution that serves their larger political agenda (often with a complete disregard for the rank and file’s beliefs), but that has an increasingly small effect on any given union’s original purpose.
Bill and Hillary Clinton, when running in 1992, were fond of repeating the old saying that insanity is defined by doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different outcome. They were prescient (and I’m not just talking about Hillary’s recycled healthcare plan). No matter how they label themselves, the Progressives are anything but: on every issue that affects Americans, they have staked their politics and theories that are antiquated, ineffective or redundant. And if that’s not crazy, I don’t know what is.
Cross-posted at Right Wing News