Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cruising the Web

Meet the woman who is challenging an Illinois law crafted to force her to be a union member and pay dues as a state employee since she receives Medicaid money from the state since she cares for her disabled son at home. This case comes before the Supreme Court today. George Will writes about the case,
Not to associate, for example, with groups whose expressive activities are offensive to those who are coerced into joining the groups. Second, those coerced into unions are compelled to subsidize with their dues union speech with which they may strenuously disagree. Third, after being transformed by government fiat into government employees, they are denied the First Amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievances in their own voices, having been forced to allow a union to petition for them.

An amicus brief supporting Harris notes that “the state of Illinois has no cognizable interest in maintaining ‘labor peace’ among household workers or family members merely because they provide services to individuals who participate in a state program or because they are subject to state regulation.”

“Labor peace” is the reason unionization is supposedly a legitimate state interest — sufficiently compelling, in certain circumstances, to allow states to compromise First Amendment protections.

“Labor peace” was an important interest when it entered labor law in 1917 in connection with a national railroad strike that might have seriously disrupted interstate commerce in wartime. But how could persons providing home care — including parents such as Pam Harris — threaten labor peace? Caregivers do not work together in a factory or office. And they certainly do not threaten the flow of interstate commerce.
Keep your fingers crossed that the Supreme Court will end this mandated unionization of home care workers that began to gift the SEIU with more forced dues.

James Capretta and Jeffrey H. Anderson explain how Obamacare lacks both a carrot and a stick. As the WSJ writes today, the numbers that HHS has released demonstrate the failure of Obamacare.
This is a failure by President Obama's own standard. About one of six Americans under age 65 lack insurance in the official statistics. So where are they? Either Democrats exaggerated the problem to pass the new entitlement. Or else individuals don't think ObamaCare plans offer value, and they're choosing to stay uninsured or buy insurance off the exchanges where the regulations are slightly looser.

For the first time HHS also disclosed data about the demographic mix on the exchanges and the types of plans people are choosing. In rational insurance markets this wouldn't matter because people would be charged premiums roughly proportional to their expected health risks. But ObamaCare's regulations require younger and healthier people to be overcharged in the name of equity and income redistribution, and if they don't report for duty then rates will surge over time.

Post Offices in Staples. What a great idea. But, of course, unions object because they would be staffed by Staples employees instead of postal union workers. The public's convenience be damned.

The Economist editorializes in favor of governments selling off their under-used properties. Amen.

Even a liberal like Joan Vennochi argues in the Boston Globe that Hillary Clinton deserves the Christie treatment for her candidacy. Ignoring that responsibility, Time Magazine's cover story asking if anyone can stop Hillary hasn't offered that.

Meanwhile, Jonah Goldberg is still dumbfounded at how scanty Hillary's record is. The most she has is the claim that she travelled a million miles, more than any other Secretary of State.
Put aside the fact that the “more than any secretary of state” part isn’t actually true — Condi Rice flew more. When you ask, “Okay, what did she get for it?” you get a blank stare or you get some stuff about championing women’s rights. Two people have told me she did good work in Myanmar, but I’ve never really gotten to the bottom of that. I suppose I could look it up, but at the end of the day we’re still talking about Myanmar, which is not the locus of America’s most pressing international problems. (“That’s right, because Hillary prevented the Myanmarese hegemony,” someone at MSNBC just shrieked. “She stopped it cold.”) While the Wikipedia page on her tenure doesn’t even mention Myanmar, it does mention her championing of better cook stoves in the Third World. That’s good. And so is improving the plight of women in various countries where their status ranges between “Slightly More Important than the Village Mule” to “So Incredibly Delicate We Must Keep Them Covered with Burlap Sacks All Day Long Even Though It’s Like 115 Degrees in the Shade Today.”

But when I take out my handy pocket realpolitik calculator, I just can’t make all that add up to much. Particularly when you compare it with our worsening problems in the Middle East, Asia (minus Myanmar!), Europe, Russia, and South America. Those problems are by no means all her fault (nor are they all Obama’s fault). But Clinton was the second most important foreign-policy official. If you were, say, the assistant coach of the 1999 Cleveland Browns or the deputy spokesman for Baghdad Bob during the lead-up to the Iraq War, you might — just might — want to highlight other things on your résumé. So it is with Clinton. As our chief diplomat, she presided over a long slide into foreign-policy suckitude. On her watch, America’s standing got worse every place it matters (except Myanmar!), despite all of those sales calls.

And that leaves out the little issue of Benghazi. The Senate Intelligence Committee report is at once a fascinating and utterly banal artifact of Washington. It identifies a huge mistake. It denounces said mistake. It concludes that the mistake could have been prevented. But nobody is responsible for the mistake. The bureaucracy did it!

Okay, you ask, who was in charge of that bureaucracy?

Shut up, they explain.
Glenn Reynolds argues that just because people are paranoid about government doesn't mean that the government is not out to get them.

Heather MacDonald has an eloquent defense of the humanities in the face of modern vulgarism that rejects anything done by dead, white men.
Compare the humanists’ hunger for learning with the resentment of a Columbia University undergraduate who had been required by the school’s freshman core curriculum to study Mozart. She happens to be black, but her views are widely shared, to borrow a phrase, “across gender, sexuality, race, and class.”

“Why did I have to listen in music humanities to this Mozart?” she groused in a discussion of the curriculum reported by David Denby in his book on Columbia’s core. “My problem with the core is that it upholds the premises of white supremacy and racism. It’s a racist core. Who is this Mozart, this Haydn, these superior white men? There are no women, no people of color.” These are not the idiosyncratic thoughts of one disgruntled student; they represent the dominant ideology in the humanities today. Columbia not only failed to disabuse the student of such parochialism; it is also all but certain that some of its faculty strengthened her in her close-mindedness, despite the school’s admirable commitment to its beleaguered core.
Read the rest. My husband particularly enjoyed her put-down of the supposed critical thinking skills that humanities professor claim to inculcate in their students.
When the academy is forced to explain the value of the humanities, the language that it uses is pathetically insipid. You may have heard the defense du jour, tossed out en route to the next gender studies conference. The humanities, we are told, teach “critical thinking.” Is this a joke? These are the same people who write sentences like this: “Total presence breaks on the univocal predication of the exterior absolute the absolute existent (of that of which it is not possible to univocally predicate an outside, while the equivocal predication of the outside of the absolute exterior is possible of that of which the reality so predicated is not the reality. . . . of the self).”And we’re supposed to believe that they can think? Moreover, the sciences provide critical thinking skills as well—far more rigorous ones, in fact, than the hackneyed deconstructions of advertising that the left-wing academy usually means by critical thinking.

It is no wonder, then, that we have been hearing of late that the humanities are in crisis. A recent Harvard report, cochaired by the school’s premier postcolonial studies theorist, Homi Bhabha, lamented that 57 percent of incoming Harvard students who initially declare interest in a humanities major eventually change concentrations. Why may that be? Imagine an intending lit major who is assigned something by Professor Bhabha: “If the problematic Ωclosure≈ of textuality questions the totalization of national culture. . . .” How soon before that student concludes that a psychology major is more up his alley?
Kevin Williamson explains who the rich really are.
This is not an invitation to moral crowing about the virtues of the rich — okay, maybe it is. The country would in fact be far better off if more people lived the way the top 20 percent do: married, working their butts off, saving and investing their money, and living within their means. (In his research for The Millionaire Next Door, Thomas J. Stanley found that the most popular make of automobile among the wealthy was not Ferrari or Mercedes but Ford, and that the most common Ford model owned by a millionaire was the F-150 pickup truck.)

But this is not just an invitation to moral crowing about the virtues of the rich. If one assumes that a very large portion of the poor would ceteris paribus prefer to be better off, then our analysis of the problem must begin by acknowledging that while there is significant inequality when it comes to income, the more radical and significant instance of inequality is in the opportunity to earn any income in the first place. Blaming the rich for the predicament of the poor is insupportable in the face of the data: If the Waltons dropped off the face of the earth tomorrow, that would make no difference at all to the 68.2 percent of poor householders who have no work but cannot afford to be unemployed. It would simply create more unemployment, assuming the Waltons do not build their own houses and sew their own clothes.

A new study finds that the opening of charter schools is associated with increases in home prices. Parents are voting with their housing choices just as they have always sought to buy homes in areas with good regular non-charter public schools.