Tuesday morning flotsam and jetsam Open Thread

My brain hasn’t yet synthesized all the fascinating data out there, including the wrenching stories of Sandy’s devastation.  For the time being, I’ll just pass interesting links on to you.  Please feel free to do the same.

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The former Commander of the United States Pacific Fleet has written a white-hot article excoriating Obama and his administration, based upon what we know to date about events in Benghazi.  Because the White House is withholding information, and because the lap dog media is refusing to seek information (or even to talk about Benghazi), I have no problem with convicting Obama et al on the information currently available.  If that crew wants a full and fair trial in the court of public opinion, it had better start releasing reliable information.

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There’s a fascinating story in my local paper today about a grocery store chain called Mi Pueblo.  It was founded as a Mom-and-Pop store by a pair of illegal immigrants.  It’s now a large, legal chain serving the Hispanic community throughout California.  It’s also a law-abiding chain, in that it uses e-verify to make sure that it’s employees aren’t illegal immigrants.  Here’s the interesting part:  by abiding with federal law, the store has incurred the wrath, not only of the illegal immigration ground, but of SEIU.  Yup, the unions are furious that as store refuses to employ illegals.  Think about that:  unions used to fight illegals, because they were seen as taking jobs away from legal American workers.  Now, unions see the effort to stop illegal immigrants from working as a nefarious plot to weaken the unions. Legal American workers — those who are native-born or have green cards — should think long and hard about what the unions what to do for them.  At the moment, it looks to me as if the unions aren’t out to protect workers, they’re out to protect unions.

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Victor Davis Hanson nails the fantasy-based “reality” that keeps affluent Californian’s voting for Democrats.  I live surrounded by this mentality:

Did California’s redistributive elite really believe that they could all but shut down new gas and oil production, strangle the timber industry, idle irrigated farmland, divert water to the delta smelt, have 37 million people use a highway system designed for 15 million, allow millions of illegal aliens to enter the state without audit, extend free medical programs to 8 million of the most recent 11 million added to the population, up taxes to among the highest in the nation, and host one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients — and not have the present chaos?

The California schools — flooded with students whose first language is not English, staffed by unionized teachers not subject to the consequences of subpar teaching, and plagued with politicized curricula that do not emphasize math, science, and reading and writing comprehension — scarcely rate above those in Mississippi and Alabama. Did liberals, who wanted unions, a new curriculum, and open borders, believe it was good for the state to have a future generation — that will build our power plants, fly our airliners, teach our children, and take out our tumors — that is at the near-bottom in national test scores?

Do Bay Area greens really believe that they that will have sufficient water if they blow up the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir? Did Barack Obama think that the Keystone pipeline or new gas and oil leases in the Gulf were superfluous, or that we do not need oil to make gasoline, wheat to make flour, or to cut timber to produce wood?

Did liberals (and their hand-in-glove employer supporters who wished for cheap labor) think that letting in millions from Central Mexico, most without legality, English, or a high school education (and in some sense at the expense of thousands waiting in line for legal admission with capital, advanced degrees, and technological expertise), was not problematic and that soaring costs in law enforcement, the criminal justice system, the schools, and the health care industries were irrelevant?

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Reagan famously said “Trust, but verify.”  In an internet age, one has to say “verify before you trust anything.”  Case in point?  A Halloween costume a young Boston Democrat put together to mock Tea Partiers.  It features her grimacing, while holding a misspelled birther sign.  Well, it went viral on the internet, not as a spoof, but as a “genuine” picture of a deranged young Alabama Tea Partier.  The young woman involved (who did not intend to prank anyone), has learned a valuable lesson about her own political party.  Maybe in a few years, she’ll be a true Tea Partier — and a nicer person for it too.

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Jonah Goldberg scolds the mainstream media for its incredible lack of curiosity about Benghazi.  Goldberg doesn’t see a conspiracy.  He sees liberal group-think that is so all-encompassing that the media people think candidate George Bush’s alleged conduct in 1974 is more important than President Barack Obama’s conduct in September 2012.

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While Jonah Goldberg is willing to damn the media with faint praise (stupid, not evil), Thomas Sowell is not so kind about the administration.  He thinks that, when it comes to Benghazi, there’s a giant con going on.  I think he’s right.  (Is it redundant to say that one thinks that Thomas Sowell has made an intelligent, accurate argument?  Doesn’t the name Sowell already encompass that description?)

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Keith Koffler does a great job summing up the way in which Obama has demeaned the presidency.  We thought the Clinton presidency already did that but, looking back, that’s not quite accurate, Clinton demeaned himself with a variety of scandals, but he managed to stay presidential when he was in the business of politics (rather than the business of shtupping the help).  Obama, however, has demeaned the presidency itself, by using sex, obscenities, and insults within the context of politics.

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Of course, when it comes to demeaning the office of the presidency, Obama is getting a lot of help.  Witness this obscenity-laden video that purports to show members of the “Greatest Generation” engaging in vulgar trash-talk against Romney.  Those elderly people who honor dignity should be offended by this, even if they’re Democrats.

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This is a lovely article that uses a faux debate to draw a devastating contrast between Barack Obama and Winston Churchill.

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And here is another devastating contrast:  the vast cultural divide between Lena Dunham, who coos that voting for Obama is like losing ones virginity, and Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, who fought to the death to save others.  Sadly, their Commander in Chief came from the Dunham side of the cultural divide, and left them to die alone in a Libyan hellhole.  (Incidentally, Tyrone Woods left behind an infant son.  If you would like to donate to a fund for that little boy, Power Line recommends this legitimate organization.  It’s an easy way to donate.  I was able to use PayPal, so I put some of the money you guys have so generously sent me towards Baby Boy Woods’ education.)

Cross-posted at Brutally Honest

A matched set on Leftism’s theoretical virtues

Whoopi Goldberg got some airplay on conservative sites the other day for pointing out something I’d already learned by the time I was 13 — Leftism is great in theory, but it doesn’t work so well in the real world.

To that “duh” moment (although I doubt it will convert her from worshiping at the Leftist altar), I offer another bit of hard evidence, in the form of the “healthy” lunch program that the L.A. Unified School District has implemented to huzzahs from the feds. It turns out that making “healthy” food for 650,000 kids a day, while it looks great on paper, doesn’t work in the real world:

For many students, L.A. Unified’s trailblazing introduction of healthful school lunches has been a flop. Earlier this year, the district got rid of chocolate and strawberry milk, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, nachos and other food high in fat, sugar and sodium. Instead, district chefs concocted such healthful alternatives as vegetarian curries and tamales, quinoa salads and pad Thai noodles.

There’s just one problem: Many of the meals are being rejected en masse. Participation in the school lunch program has dropped by thousands of students. Principals report massive waste, with unopened milk cartons and uneaten entrees being thrown away. Students are ditching lunch, and some say they’re suffering from headaches, stomach pains and even anemia. At many campuses, an underground market for chips, candy, fast-food burgers and other taboo fare is thriving.

[snip]

The new menus are in line with the federal government’s updated dietary guidelines, which recommend, for instance, that fruits and vegetables make up half the plate. L.A. Unified has virtually eliminated canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, boosting spending on fresh produce from $2 million in 2006 to $20 million in 2010.

For months before introducing the new fare, the district held community taste tests and collected 300,000 comments — 75% of which were positive, Binkle said.

But Barrett said the debut was a “disaster.” Participation plunged by more than 13%, he said. About two-fifths of the loss was tied to 99 schools that temporarily resumed requiring lunch tickets; typically, a drop-off is expected when this occurs. In the last month or so, the overall program has begun to recover; participation is down by about 5% or 6%, Barrett said.

Michelle Malkin, naturally, eviscerates this government boondoggle, which turns out to have little to do with children’s health, and lots to do with feeding the unions:

There’s nothing wrong with encouraging our children to eat healthier, of course. There’s nothing wrong with well-run, locally based and parent-driven efforts. But as I’ve noted before, the federal foodie cops care much less about students’ waistlines than they do about boosting government and public union payrolls.

In a little-noticed announcement several months ago, Obama health officials declared their intention to use school lunch applications to boost government health care rolls. Never mind the privacy concerns of parents.

Big Government programs “for the children” are never about the children. If they were, you wouldn’t see Chicago public school officials banning students from bringing home-packed meals made by their own parents. In April, The Chicago Tribune reported that “unless they have a medical excuse, they must eat the food served in the cafeteria.” The bottom line? Banning homemade lunches means a fatter payday for the school and its food provider.

Remember: The unwritten mantra driving Mrs. Obama’s federal school lunch meddling and expansion is: “Cede the children, feed the state.” And the biggest beneficiaries of her efforts over the past three years have been her husband’s deep-pocketed pals at the Service Employees International Union. There are 400,000 workers who prepare and serve lunch to American schoolchildren. SEIU represents tens of thousands of those workers and is trying to unionize many more at all costs.

In L.A., the district’s cafeteria fund is $20 million in the hole thanks to political finagling by SEIU Local 99. The union’s left-wing allies on the school board and in the mayor’s office pressured the district to adopt reckless fiscal policies awarding gold-plated health benefits to part-time cafeteria workers in the name of “social justice.” As one school board member who opposed the budget-busting entitlements said: “Everyone in this country deserves health benefits. But it was a very expensive proposal. And it wasn’t done at the bargaining table, which is where health benefits are usually negotiated. And no one had any idea where the money was going to come from.”

I’m going to throw in one more thing here:  Do you think it’s a little peculiar that, when they shift to healthy food, the menu suddenly gets foreign?  I have nothing against food from other countries.  While I’m not a fan of Latin American food, I love foreign foods, especially Asian foods.  But the subliminal message I get from the menu isn’t just that food from other nations is yummy and that we should all broaden our palettes so that we get more pleasure from dining.  Instead, the wholesale abandonment of an American menu seems to me to say that all American food is unhealthy, which is just one more bad thing America has done to the world.

Question for you:  Is my last statement a sign that I’m one step away from wearing a tinfoil hat or am I correctly recognizing yet another slap at who and what we are in America?

San Francisco protests on a silver platter

I’m all for reducing pollution, but we don’t need a trumped-up excuse like “climate change” in order to achieve a cleaner environment. Minimizing pollution is a legitimate goal which stands on its own merits; concocting hysterical disaster scenarios (such as those shown in An Inconvenient Truth) only serves to undermine any credibility the environmental and conservation movements once had.

That’s Zombie speaking, in the first of a four chapter journey through a day of protests in San Francisco.  Zombie covers environmentalists protesting environmentalists, madcaps trying to crash a Tea Party, the Tea Party itself and an SEIU Immigration Amnesty protest.  One can say many things about the City (and I often do), but it’s certainly never boring.  Find out for yourself.  Pull up a comfortable chair in front of your computer, and let Zombie do the walking.

P.S.  If you’d like more visuals and some audio of the SF Tea Party, check out Fund 47.

Are we witnessing the beginning of the end for the SEIU and other unions? *UPDATED*

There are some things that seem immutable, right until a collapse that, in 20/20 hindsight, seemed inevitable.  Just think of the Iranian Revolution, the Fall of the Berlin wall and . . . the SEIU?

For some time, the Service Employees International Union has appeared to be a permanent fixture on the political and economic scene.  With a friend in the White House, friends in Congress, and aggressive purple-shirted adherents fanned out all over the nation, how could one believe that it was anything but a locust plague lasting in perpetuity.  It had POWER.

But a funny thing is happening.  While the SEIU may have POWER, it isn’t doing it’s actual job, which is to represent workers.  Otherwise, how to explain the fact that government workers in Marin County, one of the bluest of blue spots in America, are dumping the SEIU (emphasis mine):

County of Marin public employees dissatisfied with representation by Service Employees International Union Local 1021 have petitioned to replace it with their own locally controlled union, the Marin Association of Public Employees.SEIU represents more than 1,500 of the county of Marin’s total 2,100 employees. The Marin Association of Public Employees represented county workers and the employees of a number of other local municipalities and public agencies for years before joining SEIU, which has 2.2 million members, in 1983.

In January, a petition requesting the decertification of SEIU was submitted to the county. Maya Gladstern, a systems support analyst with the county who is helping to coordinate the campaign for the association, said at least 30 percent of county workers have signed the petition, the minimum required for decertification.

“It’s a way of giving the employees of Marin more and better representation,” Gladstern said.

[snip]

Gladstern said most of the complaints about SEIU stem from the union’s decision, three years ago, to merge many of its smaller local unions in California into four large locals.

“So we lost our small local,” Gladstern said. She said the union lost its permanent office, its executive director, three union representatives and an administrative aide.

“We went from having a local office where we could meet in private to meeting in the county cafeteria,” Gladstern said.

Gladstern said the union’s strike fund, which amounted to about $80,000 to $100,000, has been absorbed by SEIU, and the Marin employees are likely to see an increase in their union dues from 1.2 percent of their salary to 1.75 percent.

(Read more about the SEIU in Marin here.)

Of this last, emphasized, paragraph, my friend Steve Schippert has this to say:

Where I come from, that’s called stolen. Small union shop decides to roll on with the big boys, who can surely twist more arms and harder to get the workers more. When the Big Dogs end up taking from the workers (their offices, their local leadership and staff in order to do what all statist union leaders seek – central control), said workers decide that the Big Dogs were predators. And realize that they took their strike funds “for the better service to the whole” of course, and won’t be giving the money back.

Because, you see, it’s not about the workers. It’s about the Union and the top of its food chain. If it were about the workers, the strike funds garnered from those who paid into it would stay with those from whom it was extracted.

But it ain’t about them. Is it?

Any questions?

In many ways, you can change the names and nouns and this describes quite presciently what the beloved Health Care process will be like. There just won’t be any “petitioning” to replace the new Big Dog bosses.

When asked why I don’t teach in a public school and take summers off, my answer is a principled and monetarily costly, “I do not do unions.” I will die broke, in debt and hungry first. All on my own.

Marin’s county workers aren’t alone when it comes to feeling disaffected by the union’s loyalty to them.  With the recession, one of the things that is becoming patently clear to American workers is that unions really only have one constituency:  union management.  For both workers and employers, unions are simply an economic drain.  Certainly the numbers point to growing disgust with the whole institution:

Unions are losing the public-relations battle. A survey released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center found that public approval of labor unions has declined significantly during the last three years.

Positive attitudes toward unions have fallen in most demographic groups. Forty-one percent of those surveyed say they have a favorable view of labor unions, while nearly the same amount has an unfavorable view at 42 percent. The results are a 17-percent decline from the last poll taken in January 2007, when a majority of people (58 percent) had a good view of unions while 31 percent thought otherwise. (The findings reinforce a 2009 Gallup poll that said only 48 percent of Americans approve of labor unions—an all-time low since 1936.)

I certainly see that disaffection in my community and, for most people, it revolves around a single source:  schools.  All the lovely, liberal people where I live are discovering that the teacher’s union has a profound effect on their children’s education.  And somehow, liberalism flies out the door when one’s own children are the sacrificial lambs at the altar of liberal ideology.

I’m seeing that play out very clearly with one of the teachers at my son’s school.  This person is a cancer, loathed equally by parents and students.  The teacher is lazy, inept, vicious, erratic, and just about everything else you can think of that makes a teacher hateful and ineffective.  I’ve complained repeatedly to the administration and been told in carefully coded language that there is absolutely nothing that can be done about this teacher.  Thanks to union contracts, unless this teacher murders a student or praises Republicans, it’s a lifetime sinecure.  (And of course, one of the teacher’s sins is to advocate illegal immigration, but that’s okay….)

What’s fascinating is that, when I “innocently” ask those parents who rail about the teacher why the teacher is still there, I get a two word answer:  “The union.”  They understand that there is an institution standing there between their child and a quality education and, damn, if they don’t resent it.  They’ll still speak lovingly of unions in meat-packing plants in Arkansas, but they’re getting pretty sick of what’s going on in the school district in their own back yard.

I’m not unaware of the fact that unions have their place — perhaps only in history, but it’s still a place.  At the turn of the last century, the employers’ ability to exploit their workers was an overwhelmingly negative force, and one that needed to be countered.  But we’re not living in 1890 or 1910.  Instead we’re living in 2010 and unions, rather than defending illiterate, helpless employees against grasping employers, are themselves a corrupt and grasping group, destroying industries, rendering government bloated and ineffective (except where it’s dangerously intrusive and overwhelming), and generally acting as a significant drag on a moribund economy.

UPDATE:  Shortly after I wrote the above, I learned that Obama has appointed SEIU head Andy Stern to his debt panel.  While it is a reminder of how closely tied our president is to a corrupt organization, it doesn’t change my point.  Even if the head has a crown, can the entity survive if the body is dying off?  My post describes a dying body.  Yes, SEIU can damage America for some time to come, but I think its heyday is over.

What’s in a name? A lot, apparently, when you’re talking about Andy Stern and communism.

One of my favorite books, and one I highly recommend, is Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism. The title is self-explanatory, so I won’t belabor what you’ll find when you read it. I mention it here because I believe it was in that book that I read that, from the 1950s through the 1970s, one of the staunchest anti-Communist forces in America was  . . . wait for it . . . the AFL-CIO!*  Yup, under the leadership of George Meany, big labor was enormously hostile to Communism.  This was not just a symbolic thing.  The AFL-CIO’s political and economic heft meant that it could affect America’s political and economic approach to the Soviet Union.  For that reason, the AFL-CIO contributed largely to the Soviet Union’s downfall — and the freeing of a significant part of the world as a result.

MediaMatters, a Leftist media watchdog, wants to assure us that unions are still anti-Communist.  MediaMatters has therefore mounted a full frontal attack against Glenn Beck, who in turn is contending the SEIU president Andy Stern is not only Obama’s best buddy, but is also a communist.  The problem as Beck sees it and as Kathy Shaidle explains, is that Andy Stern likes to go around quoting communist slogans as his guiding principles.  In a recent interview, he announced that “workers of the world unite, it’s not just a slogan anymore.  It’s the way we’re going to have to do our work.”

Stern hastened to add in a subsequent interview that he thinks it’s just great that communism is dead.  It’s certainly nice of Stern to say that, but his conclusory statement about communism’s death hasn’t assuaged anyone’s worry that he, like Anita Dunn, who quotes Mao with the best of them, looks for moral and practical guidance to some pretty rotten people with really bad ideas.

You and I aren’t simplistic or naive.  We know that even bad people have good ideas.  Indeed, to be a high functioning bad person, you have to have some good ideas or otherwise you won’t sell your overall ideology.  Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were all effective managers, and Mussolini did get those trains to run on time.

Nevertheless, as I’ve said before and am happy to say again, there comes a point when someone’s reprehensible side is so extreme that simple decency means that you can no longer hold that person’s less reprehensible side up as a useful example for one thing or another.  Because reputation matters, when a person’s evil outweighs his good, we toss him from the role model pedestal for all purposes.

Still, one could argue that recyclying is a good thing, and that’s mere convenience for for Stern, who does want to unite workers, to rely on that recognizable  old Marxist standby about the world’s workings uniting.  It’s kind of like a Che shirt — everybody recognizes it but, to the average American, it’s been leeched of its associated horrors.  The only problem with this defense is that, in addition to a weakness for communist slogans, Stern also engages in communist behavior patterns.

I’ll digress here a minute and explain what I mean by “communist behavior patterns.”  Boiled down to its essence, communism is about government control.  It is statism.  It is the opposite of the American experience which, since the Founders’ days, has been committed to liberty.

To the committed communist, anxious to explain why his system is so good, communism is an economic doctrine, with the government simply ensuring that everyone contributes so that everyone gets back.  (Doesn’t that sound nice?)  In real world terms, proven on the ground in myriad countries (the Soviet Union, North Korea, China, Bulgaria, etc.), things aren’t that simple or sweet.  Without exception, in every country in which it has been tried, communism has resulted in a state that controls the individual absolutely and completely.

It’s quite logical.  Without that overarching control, how can the simple government bureaucrat be sure that everyone is contributing?  Only through the use of force can a statist government ensure those voluntary contributions.  Individual liberty yields so quickly to coercion that life in a Communist nation is tantamount to life in a prison.  Freedom vanishes.  The government sees all and knows all — and it makes sure its citizens are fully aware of its overarching police powers.

To be sure, Andy Stern doesn’t control a government, but he does have his own private fiefdom in the SEIU.  As king of that domain, he’s committed to complete control over both those who officially reside in his kingdom (that would be the union members) and those he views as enemies of his kingdom (business and its allies).  So, Stern, to show his commitment to SEIU’s agenda, proudly boasts of engaging in precisely the same Big Brother tactics that characterize life in a Communist nation:

STERN: We took names. We watched how they voted. We know where they live. (…)

STERN: There are opportunities in America to share better in the wealth, to rebalance the power, and unions and government are part of the solution.

In other words, the same man who openly quotes Marxist doctrine also openly engages in coercive Marxist conduct.  Shakespeare knew that labels are just labels.  What matters is the deeper quality that characterizes a thing or a person.  (“What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.”)  Stern can disavow communism as much as he likes, but when he trumpets Marxist doctrine as his guiding principle, and loudly lets people know that he is willing to use spying and coercive tactics to ensure that everyone “contributes,” there’s a heavy Marxist stench rising around him — and disavowals simply aren’t going to deodorize the smell.

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* There are two other places I might have read about George Meany.  One is Natan Sharansky’s The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedm to Overcome Tyranny and Terror. The other is Ann Coulter’s Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right. By the way, even if I’m wrong and none of these books is the source for my knowledge about the AFL-CIO’s anti-communist activities, all three are such good books, you have nothing to lose by reading them.