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The NLRB Fear Factor

 

How the Boeing case poisons investment.

The Wall Street Journal         august 13, 2011

The National Association of Manufacturers asked its members last month how the National Labor Relations Board’s decision against Boeing’s Sourth Carolina plant case is affecting their decision-making. Some 60% said the government’s case already has—or could—hurt hiring. Sixty-nine percent said the case would damage job growth. And 49% said capital expenditure plans “have been or may be impacted by the NLRB’s complaint.” Around 1,000 of the association’s 11,000 members contributed to the survey. That’s a lot of lost jobs.

Some might dismiss these results as self-interested, or predictable given the general business distaste for regulation. But that ignores the role that confidence plays in reviving the animal spirits essential for economic growth. When CEOs or entrepreneurs fear political intervention that might impose higher costs, they are more reluctant to invest or to hire new employees. That’s especially true when the economy is already growing slowly, or emerging from recession.

The NLRB’s assault on Boeing has been especially damaging because it violates what most Americans consider to be a core tenet of U.S. capitalism—the ability to move capital or business where you think it has the best chance of success. Boeing’s executives are being punished for remarks they made long ago about strikes at their Washington plants.

Boeing is challenging the NLRB’s complaint and may ultimately win in a federal court. But that could take months, and in the meantime executives across America are wondering what happens if the NLRB wins. Will their new plant in a “right to work” state be targeted next? Will their union drive a harder bargain knowing that the NLRB is ready to pounce on one unscripted CEO remark?

In a now-famous meeting last year with then White House budget direct Peter Orszag, CEOs from the Business Roundtable complained about the costs of regulation. Give me examples, Mr. Orszag said, and the BRT followed up with a 54-page list. A measure of the Administration’s responsiveness is that the NLRB launched its assault on Boeing after the BRT provided those examples, and President Obama has refused to say a word of reproach to the agency. This is how you get economic growth of 0.8%

What Happened to Obama? Absolutely Nothing.

 

He is still the same anti-American leftist he was before becoming our president.

By NORMAN PODHORETZ

The Wall Street Journal        August 13. 2011

It’s open season on President Obama. Which is to say that the usual suspects on the right (among whom I include myself) are increasingly being joined in attacking him by erstwhile worshipers on the left. Even before the S&P downgrade, there were reports of Democrats lamenting that Hillary Clinton had lost to him in 2008. Some were comparing him not, as most of them originally had, to Lincoln and Roosevelt but to the hapless Jimmy Carter. There was even talk of finding a candidate to stage a primary run against him. But since the downgrade, more and more liberal pundits have been deserting what they clearly fear is a sinking ship.

Here, for example, from the Washington Post, is Richard Cohen: “He is the very personification of cognitive dissonance—the gap between what we (especially liberals) expected of the first serious African American presidential candidate and the man he in fact is.” More amazingly yet Mr. Cohen goes on to say of Mr. Obama, who not long ago was almost universally hailed as the greatest orator since Pericles, that he lacks even “the rhetorical qualities of the old-time black politicians.” And to compound the amazement, Mr. Cohen tells us that he cannot even “recall a soaring passage from a speech.”

Overseas it is the same refrain. Everywhere in the world, we read in Germany’s Der Spiegel, not only are the hopes ignited by Mr. Obama being dashed, but his “weakness is a problem for the entire global economy.”

In short, the spell that Mr. Obama once cast—a spell so powerful that instead of ridiculing him when he boasted that he would cause “the oceans to stop rising and the planet to heal,” all of liberaldom fell into a delirious swoon—has now been broken by its traumatic realization that he is neither the “god” Newsweek in all seriousness declared him to be nor even a messianic deliverer.

Hence the question on every lip is—as the title of a much quoted article in the New York Times by Drew Westen of Emory University puts it— “What Happened to Obama?” Attacking from the left, Mr. Westin charges that President Obama has been conciliatory when he should have been aggressively pounding away at all the evildoers on the right.

Of course, unlike Mr. Westen, we villainous conservatives do not see Mr. Obama as conciliatory or as “a president who either does not know what he believes or is willing to take whatever position he thinks will lead to his re-election.” On the contrary, we see him as a president who knows all too well what he believes. Furthermore, what Mr. Westen regards as an opportunistic appeal to the center we interpret as a tactic calculated to obfuscate his unshakable strategic objective, which is to turn this country into a European-style social democracy while diminishing the leading role it has played in the world since the end of World War II. The Democrats have persistently denied that these are Mr. Obama’s goals, but they have only been able to do so by ignoring or dismissing what Mr. Obama himself, in a rare moment of candor, promised at the tail end of his run for the presidency: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

podhoretzGetty Images
 

This statement, coming on top of his association with radicals like Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright and Rashid Khalidi, definitively revealed to all who were not wilfully blinding themselves that Mr. Obama was a genuine product of the political culture that had its birth among a marginal group of leftists in the early 1960s and that by the end of the decade had spread metastatically to the universities, the mainstream media, the mainline churches, and the entertainment industry. Like their communist ancestors of the 1930s, the leftist radicals of the ’60s were convinced that the United States was so rotten that only a revolution could save it.

But whereas the communists had in their delusional vision of the Soviet Union a model of the kind of society that would replace the one they were bent on destroying, the new leftists only knew what they were against: America, or Amerika as they spelled it to suggest its kinship to Nazi Germany. Thanks, however, to the unmasking of the Soviet Union as a totalitarian nightmare, they did not know what they were for. Yet once they had pulled off the incredible feat of taking over the Democratic Party behind the presidential candidacy of George McGovern in 1972, they dropped the vain hope of a revolution, and in the social-democratic system most fully developed in Sweden they found an alternative to American capitalism that had a realistic possibility of being achieved through gradual political reform.

Despite Mr. McGovern’s defeat by Richard Nixon in a landslide, the leftists remained a powerful force within the Democratic Party, but for the next three decades the electoral exigencies within which they had chosen to operate prevented them from getting their own man nominated. Thus, not one of the six Democratic presidential candidates who followed Mr. McGovern came out of the party’s left wing, and when Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton (the only two of the six who won) tried each in his own way to govern in its spirit, their policies were rejected by the American immune system. It was only with the advent of Barack Obama that the leftists at long last succeeded in nominating one of their own.

To be sure, no white candidate who had close associations with an outspoken hater of America like Jeremiah Wright and an unrepentant terrorist like Bill Ayers would have lasted a single day. But because Mr. Obama was black, and therefore entitled in the eyes of liberaldom to have hung out with protesters against various American injustices, even if they were a bit extreme, he was given a pass. And in any case, what did such ancient history matter when he was also articulate and elegant and (as he himself had said) “non-threatening,” all of which gave him a fighting chance to become the first black president and thereby to lay the curse of racism to rest?

And so it came about that a faithful scion of the political culture of the ’60s left is now sitting in the White House and doing everything in his power to effect the fundamental transformation of America to which that culture was dedicated and to which he has pledged his own personal allegiance.

I disagree with those of my fellow conservatives who maintain that Mr. Obama is indifferent to “the best interests of the United States” (Thomas Sowell) and is “purposely” out to harm America (Rush Limbaugh). In my opinion, he imagines that he is helping America to repent of its many sins and to become a different and better country.

But I emphatically agree with Messrs. Limbaugh and Sowell about this president’s attitude toward America as it exists and as the Founding Fathers intended it. That is why my own answer to the question, “What Happened to Obama?” is that nothing happened to him. He is still the same anti-American leftist he was before becoming our president, and it is this rather than inexperience or incompetence or weakness or stupidity that accounts for the richly deserved failure both at home and abroad of the policies stemming from that reprehensible cast of mind.

Mr. Podhoretz was the editor of Commentary from 1960 to 1995. His most recent book is “Why Are Jews Liberals?” (Doubleday, 2009).

Riots and flash mobs have root causes that government can’t reach.

The Wall Street Journal         AUGUST 13, 2011

 

Après le Déluge, What?

  • By PEGGY NOONAN

 

The riots in Britain left some Americans shaken. In the affluence of the past 40 years, and with the rise of the jumbo jet, we became a nation of travelers. We have been to England, visited a lot of those neighborhoods. They were peaceful; now they’re in flames. But something else raised our unease as we followed the story on TV and on the Net. I think there was a ping on the national radar. We saw something over there that in smaller ways we’re starting to see over here.

The British press, left, right and center, was largely united in a refusal to make political excuses for the violence. Almost all agreed on the cause and nature of what happened. The cause was not injustice; this was not a revolt of the downtrodden masses, breaking into stores looking for food. The causes were greed, selfishness, a respect and even lust for violence, and a lack of moral grounding. Conscienceless predators preyed upon the weak. The weak were anyone who happened to be passing by, and those, many of them immigrants, who tried to defend their shops and neighborhoods. The iconic scene was the 20-year-old college student in East London who was beaten for his bicycle and fell bloody to the ground. His tormentors, with a sadistic imitation of gentleness, helped him up. Then they rifled through his backpack to get his phone and wallet. It was cruelty out of Dickens. It was Bill Sikes with a million YouTube hits.

The denunciations were swift and fierce. Max Hastings, in the conservative-populist Daily Mail: “The depressing truth is that at the bottom of our society is a layer of young people with no skills, education, values or aspirations. . . . Nobody has ever dared suggest to them that they need feel any allegiance to anything, least of all Britain or their community. . . . Not only do they know nothing of Britain’s past, they care nothing for its present.”

In the left-tilting Guardian, youth worker Shaun Bailey called the rioters opportunists. “Young people have been looting the shops they like: JD Sports and mobile phone shops have been hit, yet Waterstone’s [a bookstore] has been left alone. These young people like trainers [sneakers] and iPhones; they are less interested in books. This is criminality in a raw form, not politics.”

 

ZUMAPRESSA well known local gang in Normanton, Derby wears scarves and hoods to protect their identity.

noonan0813

In the right-leaning Telegraph, Allison Pearson asked: “Where are the parents?” She told of a friend who’d called a mother to tell her her son was out and acting up. The mother yelled at her for calling at 2:15 a.m. “The adults are afraid and the children, emboldened by adult timidity, are fearless.”

More stinging and resigned was the brief essay by Theodore Dalrymple in the intellectually bracing City Journal. The subject—the decline of Western society—has been his for 20 years. He has written what he saw as a doctor working in British prisons. “The ferocious criminality exhibited by an uncomfortably large section of the English population” in the riots did not surprise him. “To have spotted it required no great perspicacity on my part; rather, it took a peculiar cowardly blindness, one regularly displayed by the British intelligentsia and political class, not to see it and not to realize its significance.”

At fault in the riots were the distorting effects of the welfare state and a degenerate British popular culture: “A population thinks (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class) that it is entitled to a high standard of consumption, irrespective of its personal efforts; and therefore it regards the fact that it does not receive that high standard, by comparison with the rest of society, as a sign of injustice.” Much of what they have is provided by others, but they are not grateful: dependency doesn’t encourage gratitude but resentment.

***

What does this have to do with America? What we’re seeing on the streets in Britain right now is something we may be starting to see here. It hasn’t come together in a conflagration, but it is out there, and I think it’s growing. And as in Britain, it doesn’t have anything to do with political grievances per se.

Philadelphia right now is under curfew because of “flash mobs.” Young people send out the word on social media, and suddenly dozens or hundreds of them hit a targeted store, steal everything on the shelves, and run, knowing no one will stop them or catch them. It’s happened in other cities, too. Sometimes the mobs beat people up on the street and take their money. There are the beat-downs in McDonald’s, where the young lose all control and the old fear to intervene. There were the fights and attacks last weekend at the Wisconsin State Fair. You’ve seen the YouTubes of fights on the subways. You often see links to these stories on Drudge: He headlines them “Les Miserables.”

Some of these young people come from brokenness, shallowness and terror, and are bringing those things into the world with them. Here are some statistics of what someone last week called a new lost generation. In 2009, the last year for which census data are available, there were 74 million children under 18. Of that number, 20 million live in single-parent families, often with only an overwhelmed mother or a beleaguered grandmother. Over 700,000 children under 18 have been the subject of reports of abuse. More than a quarter million are foster children.

These numbers suggest the making—or the presence—of a crisis.

Some of these youngsters become miracle children. In spite of the hand they were dealt, they learn to be constructive, successful, givers to life. But many, we know, do not. Some will wind up on YouTube.

The normal, old response to an emerging problem such as this has been: The government has to do something. We must start a program, create an agency to address juvenile delinquency. But governments are tapped out, cutting back, trying to avoid bankruptcy. Which means we can’t even take refuge in the illusion that government can solve the problem. The churches of America have always helped the young, stepping in where they can. That will continue. But they too are hard-pressed these days.

Where does that leave us? In a hard place, knowing in our guts that a lot of troubled kids are coming up, and not knowing what to do about it. The problem, at bottom, is love, something we never talk about in public policy discussions because it’s too soft and can’t be quantified or legislated. But little children without love and guidance are afraid. They’re terrified—they have nothing solid in the world, which is a pretty scary place. So they never feel safe. As they grow, their fear becomes rage. Further on, the rage can be expressed in violence. This is especially true of boys, but it’s increasingly true of girls.

What’s needed can’t be provided by government. When the riot begins or the flash mob arrives, the best the government can do is control the streets, enforce the law, maintain the peace.

After that, what? Britain is about to face that question. We’ll likely have to face it, too.

Socialism is a philosophy of failure

 

 

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure,

the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy,

its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery…”

– Winston Churchill

Is Obama Smart?

 

A case study in stupid is as stupid does.

By BRET STEPHENS

The Wall Street journal August 9, 2011

 

The aircraft was large, modern and considered among the world’s safest. But that night it was flying straight into a huge thunderstorm. Turbulence was extreme, and airspeed indicators may not have been functioning properly. Worse, the pilots were incompetent. As the plane threatened to stall they panicked by pointing the nose up, losing speed when they ought to have done the opposite. It was all over in minutes.

Was this the fate of Flight 447, the Air France jet that plunged mysteriously into the Atlantic a couple of years ago? Could be. What I’m talking about here is the Obama presidency.

When it comes to piloting, Barack Obama seems to think he’s the political equivalent of Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Yeager and—in a “Fly Me to the Moon” sort of way—Nat King Cole rolled into one. “I think I’m a better speech writer than my speech writers,” he reportedly told an aide in 2008. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m . . . a better political director than my political director.”

On another occasion—at the 2004 Democratic convention—Mr. Obama explained to a Chicago Tribune reporter that “I’m LeBron, baby. I can play at this level. I got game.”

Of course, it’s tempting to be immodest when your admirers are so immodest about you. How many times have we heard it said that Mr. Obama is the smartest president ever? Even when he’s criticized, his failures are usually chalked up to his supposed brilliance. Liberals say he’s too cerebral for the Beltway rough-and-tumble; conservatives often seem to think his blunders, foreign and domestic, are all part of a cunning scheme to turn the U.S. into a combination of Finland, Cuba and Saudi Arabia.

I don’t buy it. I just think the president isn’t very bright.

Socrates taught that wisdom begins in the recognition of how little we know. Mr. Obama is perpetually intent on telling us how much he knows. Aristotle wrote that the type of intelligence most needed in politics is prudence, which in turn requires experience. Mr. Obama came to office with no experience. Plutarch warned that flattery “makes itself an obstacle and pestilence to great houses and great affairs.” Today’s White House, more so than any in memory, is stuffed with flatterers.

Associated PressMuch is made of the president’s rhetorical gifts. This is the sort of thing that can be credited only by people who think that a command of English syntax is a mark of great intellectual distinction. Can anyone recall a memorable phrase from one of Mr. Obama’s big speeches that didn’t amount to cliché? As for the small speeches, such as the one we were kept waiting 50 minutes for yesterday, we get Triple-A bromides about America remaining a “Triple-A country.” Which, when it comes to long-term sovereign debt, is precisely what we no longer are under Mr. Obama.

Then there is Mr. Obama as political tactician. He makes predictions that prove false. He makes promises he cannot honor. He raises expectations he cannot meet. He reneges on commitments made in private. He surrenders positions staked in public. He is absent from issues in which he has a duty to be involved. He is overbearing when he ought to be absent. At the height of the financial panic of 1907, Teddy Roosevelt, who had done much to bring the panic about by inveighing against big business, at least had the good sense to stick to his bear hunt and let J.P. Morgan sort things out. Not so this president, who puts a new twist on an old put-down: Every time he opens his mouth, he subtracts from the sum total of financial capital.

Then there’s his habit of never trimming his sails, much less tacking to the prevailing wind. When Bill Clinton got hammered on health care, he reverted to centrist course and passed welfare reform. When it looked like the Iraq war was going to be lost, George Bush fired Don Rumsfeld and ordered the surge.

Mr. Obama, by contrast, appears to consider himself immune from error. Perhaps this explains why he has now doubled down on Heckuva Job Geithner. It also explains his insulting and politically inept habit of suggesting—whether the issue is health care, or Arab-Israeli peace, or change we can believe in at some point in God’s good time—that the fault always lies in the failure of his audiences to listen attentively. It doesn’t. In politics, a failure of communication is always the fault of the communicator.

Much of the media has spent the past decade obsessing about the malapropisms of George W. Bush, the ignorance of Sarah Palin, and perhaps soon the stupidity of Rick Perry. Nothing is so typical of middling minds than to harp on the intellectual deficiencies of the slightly less smart and considerably more successful.

But it takes actual smarts to understand that glibness and self-belief are not sufficient proof of genuine intelligence. Stupid is as stupid does, said the great philosopher Forrest Gump. The presidency of Barack Obama is a case study in stupid does.

Write to bstephens@wsj.com

Obama’s New Gifts to Organized Labor

 

A union election is a decisive event in an employee’s life, and new rules limit the information employees get before voting.

The Wall street Journal      August 9, 2011

By EUGENE SCALIA

Government encroachments typically come as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Justice Antonin Scalia once observed, but occasionally they are brazen—then, the “wolf comes as a wolf.” The Obama administration recently proposed a pair of rules to help unions win workplace elections. One rule is obviously a wolf. The other is a pretty creepy looking sheep.

The “wolf” is a proposal of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to enable unions to force organizing elections with as little as 10 days’ notice. Critical issues governing the election—such as which employees may vote—would be determined in a hearing just a week after the union petitions for a vote.

The company, which often will not even know a labor lawyer, would also have one week to prepare a hearing statement addressing such arcana as “the Board’s jurisdiction to process the petition; the appropriateness of the petitioned-for unit; . . . [and] the existence of any bar to the election.” In the same week, the company would have to learn its rights and responsibilities under the labor laws, prepare for the hearing and launch its campaign for the upcoming election. Oh—it has a business to run too.

And the union? Its business is organizing. Often, paid organizers have been working behind the scenes for months, awaiting the opportune moment to spring their election demand.

The day before the NLRB proposed its election-blitz rule, the Department of Labor proposed a rule to further hobble companies’ response to union organizing. The department’s rule concerns the circumstances where employers, and firms they hire to “persuade” employees on union matters, must disclose that relationship in government filings. Congress created an exception to the disclosure requirement if outside firms “advise” the company, rather than “persuading” its workers. Labor’s proposal sharply limits that exception. Disclosure now would be required, for instance, when a lawyer suggests changes to material the company has written to distribute to employees.

Businesses always are reluctant to make governmental filings about the purpose and terms of their relationships. That’s particularly so when sensitive strategic and legal matters are involved—and when misfiling could result in criminal sanctions. And so, the Labor Department rule is dressed in the innocent garb of “disclosure.” But its intent is to pressure experts and companies to curb the services they offer and seek—in order to avoid federal filing obligations—just as the NLRB rule increases a company’s need for experts to quickly counter the unions’ inherent organizing expertise.

An irony to the NLRB’s move to expedite union elections is that these already are among the fastest legal proceedings known to man. In 2010, according to the NLRB’s acting general counsel, the median time to an organizing election after the union petitioned was 38 days, and “95.1% of all initial representation elections were conducted within 56 days.” By contrast, a federal court case—which often is less decisive to a company’s future than unionization—takes a median of seven and a half months, not counting appeal. A defendant has 21 days to file an answer, a deadline that’s commonly extended.

A union election is a decisive event in an employee’s life too—and the new rules would limit the information employees get before voting. While union organizers will have had months to bend workers’ ears (and arms), the company gets just a few days to prepare and communicate its message. That means employees have limited opportunity to get the company’s perspective on what a union means for its cost structure and competitiveness.

Both proposals are cut from the same cloth as the dubiously titled Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) from two years ago, which effectively would have eliminated secret-ballot elections for unions. EFCA failed to pass Congress because it was not just manifestly unfair, it was undemocratic. The secret ballot is integral to an election worthy of the name. And so is a campaign in advance to educate voters. Are companies’ statements necessarily more truthful than unions’? No. But to quote Justice Brennan (who quoted Judge Learned Hand), through the First Amendment we have “staked . . . our all” upon the belief that “right conclusions are more likely to be gathered out of a multitude of tongues.”

President Obama—an avowed civil libertarian and former voting-rights professor—can’t be feeling proud about a pair of rules meant to change election outcomes by limiting speech and helping one side get a jump on the other. But unions are a financial bedrock of the Democratic Party. And private-sector unions are in sharp decline—6.9% of the work force, compared to nearly 21% in 1978. The president’s allies may figure that helping unions win their elections is essential if unions are to help the president win his.

The problem with that calculus is that the administration has spent much of the year attempting to show businesses that it’s their ally and a foe of unreasonable, onerous new regulations. That message is sharply undercut by a pair of proposed rules that overnight could subject thriving businesses to blitzkrieg union elections for which they have scant ability to prepare.

Mr. Scalia, an attorney, was solicitor of labor under President George W. Bush.

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