The Left Is Coming for You Next

From Kevin D. Williamson:

We think in language, and we think in stories, a fact that is appreciated most keenly not by writers or literary critics but by censors.

In the course of writing about the ongoing fraud in which a cabal of left-wing lawyers with connections to the administrations of Barack Obama and Andrew Cuomo has attempted to extort many billions of dollars from Chevron, I had a memorable conversation with an executive at the energy giant. “We are the least sympathetic defendant there is,” he said. “We’re an oil company. You can say almost anything about an oil company. There are no stories in which the oil company is the good guy.” There is one: The one where you go to the 7-Eleven and fill up your miraculous machine with a miraculous energy source that would, within the recent history of the human species, have been indistinguishable from magic.

But the point stands. You can say anything you like, no matter how wild the claim, about an oil company or a financial firm, or, indeed, about any corporation, “corporation” now being the English word that means “a business that I hate.” The demonization of the word “corporation” has proceeded alongside the demonization of the concept. The word “corporation” already had slightly sinister overtones (it is naturally associated with the English word “corpse,” though that word is not in fact derived from the Latin “corpus”) which has been intensified by the immortal, galaxy-spanning corporations of science fiction; I have always thought (here I glance nervously over my shoulder at Kathryn Jean Lopez) that the writers of Star Trek missed an opportunity with the Borg, whose habitual promise that “you will be assimilated” would have been much better rendered “you will be incorporated,” since they, like a Portuguese man-o’-war, form a single colonial organism. Incorporation is a word that strikes terror into many hearts. (Particularly those beating in proximity to Houston.) I spent part of Friday night among Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters in New York, and one very nice young couple warned me darkly that Republicans would “do whatever the corporations tell them to.” The corporations: As if they were all part of the same team, and had meetings.

The American Left, which long ago abandoned its hereditary liberalism for totalitarianism, is very much interested in policing language. Writing this week in Time, which still exists, Katy Steinmetz complains about the use of the word “transgendered” to describe people who were until five minutes ago known as transsexuals, and five minutes before that weird guys in dresses. (The argument, in case you are wondering, is that the implicitly passive form “transgendered” suggests that something was done to these people, as though we could not distinguish between a tossed salad and a spotted owl.) She offers other sage advice: “If you meet a trans person — someone who identifies with a gender other than the sex they were assigned at birth — it’s generally a good idea to ask which pronouns (he or she, him or her) they prefer and to use whatever that is.” Other than establishing that she isn’t a reliable guide to pronouns, the merry assumption of absolute nonsense — “the sex they were assigned at birth” as opposed to the sex they are — isn’t just illiteracy. People instinctively resist the lie, which makes it necessary to make the truth almost literally unspeakable, even unthinkable. The lie isn’t quite sold yet, inasmuch as people still roll their eyes a little at the phrase “women with penises,” but it is getting there.

Progressive tut-tutting about that sort of thing may be the mild stuff, but it isn’t innocuous. Activists for the so-called transgendered have argued that my work on the issue should be not criticized but banned, as in suppressed by the force of state violence. The usual banalities — “hate speech” and all that — are invoked. So far, it isn’t a crime to get on the wrong side of the men-in-dresses activists. We aren’t, after all, Canadians.

Global warming, though, is a different matter. The attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Claude Earl Walker, has issued a subpoena to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank that has been critical of a great deal of global-warming scholarship. This is part of a coordinated campaign by Democratic attorneys general, including those in New York and California, to prosecute persons and institutions with nonconforming views on global warming, with special attention being given to Exxon and to groups that it may have supported financially. The subpoena against CEI is a pure fishing expedition, a search for anything that might be potentially embarrassing that can be used as part of the public-relations campaign rather than as part of a prosecution, the prosecution bit being tricky because there isn’t much of an argument that any laws have been broken.

New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, is taking a similar approach. He isn’t sure what law Exxon has broken, but he promises to find one, making different accusations and arguments as the venue demands. Barack Obama’s so-called Justice Department is considering filing a case of its own.

Despite the insistence of Democrats in positions of power, this is not a “fraud” investigation. There has been no credible case made — none whatsoever — that any fraud has been committed.

We should, while it is permitted, be as plain as possible about what is happening here: This is an act of obvious, gross, and indefensible political suppression, with two ends: One is riling up young, white, middle-income progressives before the 2016 election (in which California’s Democratic attorney general, Kamala Harris, is a Senate candidate), voters who care a great deal about global warming and not very much about freedom of speech; the second is financial, in that Exxon, the second most valuable firm on Earth by market capitalization, has a great deal of money, and may be bullied into a settlement that will fund a great deal of Democratic activism for years to come.

This is banana-republic stuff.

Kamala Harris, Eric Schneiderman, Claude Earl Walker, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch should not resign — they should be hounded from office, and from polite society. Prosecuting political institutions and businesses for political activism is brown-shirt business, plain and simply and ugly and heinous. If you believe that this will stop at prosecuting wicked, evil “corporations,” you are deluding yourself.

You’re next.

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Make America Exceptional Again

From Daniel Krauthammer:

‘Americans and Europeans alike sometimes forget how unique is the United States of America,” Margaret Thatcher said. “No other nation has been built upon an idea—the idea of liberty.” This is the essence of American exceptionalism. The American identity and national bond are based not just on a common history or culture or language but, more important, on a set of common ideals and principles, as embodied in the Declaration of Independence: the equality of all individuals, the inviolability of human rights, and the dependence of government’s legitimacy on the consent of the governed.

How do these ideas fit into Donald Trump’s vision of American greatness? He promises to “make America great again.” But where in his declarations can we find the language of the American creed? Think about it. In all his stump speeches, tweets, and debate performances, how many times have you heard him utter the words liberty, freedom, democracy, Constitution, Founding Fathers, rights, ideals, equality, opportunity? Has he ever quoted the giants of our political pantheon—Lincoln or Jefferson, FDR or Reagan? Unlike every other candidate, Republican and Democratic, in this race and in races past, he completely ignores the ideas at the heart of the American experiment.

Instead, he repeats words like winning, great, huge, beat, kill, deals, successful, rich. He quotes himself and his own books. The central idea at the heart of Trumpism is the idea of winning. And winning, by his definition, means beating a loser. Right now, he says, we’re losing to China and Mexico and Japan and all the rest. But he’ll change that. He’ll reverse the flow of money from foreigners and illegal immigrants back into the pockets of hardworking Americans. Trump’s world is a zero-sum game, and Trump’s America will start winning again only when everyone else starts losing.

This simplistic thinking defies logic and basic economics. But it does appeal to a certain sense of American nationalism: that “we” as a collective need to rally around a strong leader who will make us once again richer and more powerful than everyone else. Why? Because we’re us and they’re them. This kind of nationalism, however, is completely unexceptional. The leaders of literally any other country on earth could—and often do—say the same thing to their people and appeal to the same nationalistic sentiments. There is nothing uniquely American about what Trump espouses. There is no American ideal or philosophy providing a moral reason for this national mission to “win.”

What has been unique in American political discourse for 240 years is that our ideals have given a higher purpose to our common mission to govern ourselves at home and champion our values abroad. Americans, Jefferson wrote, are “trusted with the destinies of this solitary republic of the world, the only monument of human rights, and the sole depository of the sacred fire of freedom and self-government, from hence it is to be lighted up in other regions of the earth, if other regions of the earth shall ever become susceptible of its benign influence.” It fills me with pride to belong to the one country in history to have built its foundation and forged its bonds of citizenship on these magnificent ideals. It has given me a deep love for my country—a patriotism I feel in my bones.

Many foreigners find this somewhat mystifying, if not unsettling. My European friends in particular are often shocked when they come to America and see how often and fervently we wave the flag, sing the national anthem, and celebrate our military. They recoil and ask how I can partake in such naked displays of nationalism. In their countries, comparable shows of national sentiment are often linked to racism, xenophobia, militarism, and chauvinism. And not without reason: The history of Europe and much of the world is replete with countless tragic examples of political leaders whipping their countrymen into a nationalistic fury to start wars, crush individual rights, oppress minorities, and even commit genocide.

But America is different, I explain, unique in that our national identity is based on ideas. Without a shared belief in liberty, democracy, and equal opportunity, we would cease to be Americans in any meaningful sense. Our patriotic displays express a shared pride and dedication to those ideals far beyond any brittle bond of race, ethnicity, or narrow sense of nationality.

Donald Trump is chipping away at that truth, reducing American patriotism to an ugly and tawdry nationalism bereft of true American values. He denounces and dismisses allies who share those values—peaceful democracies like Japan, South Korea, Germany, and other NATO members—but compliments and quotes dictators like Vladimir Putin and Mussolini, who dismantled democracies and invaded their neighbors. A core tenet of his foreign policy is to demand our allies give us more money in exchange for our protection. He seems to view the role of the United States and its military in the world not as FDR’s “arsenal of democracy,” but rather a mercenary force with little higher mission than to reclaim every penny of its cost from other nations.

In the domestic arena, he demonstrates disdain for our most dearly held freedoms, threatening to “open up libel laws” to sue newspapers that write negative stories about him, joking about killing reporters, and calling them “such lying, disgusting people.” He regularly whips his crowds into frenzies of anger and violence completely anathema to the democratic spirit, encouraging them to “knock the crap out of” protesters and have them “carried out on a stretcher.” When one of his supporters did assault a protester at a North Carolina rally and followed it up by declaring that next time, “we might have to kill him,” Trump praised the man, saying “he obviously loves his country.” That Trump confuses such hatred for patriotism is telling. And that this hatred is often directed toward protesters who are members of racial and ethnic minorities—at rallies where Trump’s nationalistic rhetoric flirts all too closely with nativist and racist sentiments—makes these episodes even more disturbing. When he leads his crowds in angry jeers of “USA! USA! USA!” to cheer on this vitriolic behavior, he inverts in the most awful way what that chant should mean.

“Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism,” George Orwell advised, for “no nationalist ever thinks, talks, or writes about anything except the superiority of his own power unit.” Donald Trump, having lived a life devoted to his own enrichment and empowerment at the cost of everyone around him, seeks to become our president by extending that personal philosophy of selfishness to a national level. He has declared, “I’m very greedy. I’m a greedy person. .  .  . I’ve always been greedy,” and that now “I want to be greedy for our country. .  .  . I want to be so greedy for our country.” Is that who we want to be? No longer Lincoln’s “last best hope of earth,” no longer Reagan’s “shining city on a hill,” but Trump’s nation of greed?

Trump’s vision will not make America great. On the contrary, it will make us utterly ordinary among the nations of the world. This is a time for choosing. We must choose to remember who we are and protect what makes us exceptional.

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The Equal Pay Day Fraud

From Mark J. Perry:

The American Association of University Women (AAUW), along with the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE), are major participants in the feminist propaganda machine that mobilizes its forces every April and engages in statistical misrepresentations to publicize the annual feminist holiday known as Equal Pay Day. Last April, AAUW executive director Linda D. Hallman sent a mass email that made this verifiably false statement (emphasis added):

Think about it: Women have to work almost four months longer than men do to earn the same amount of money for doing the same job. What’s more, we have to set aside a day each year just to call the nation’s attention to it.

Hallman’s statement is a statistical fairy tale because it’s based on the false assumption that women get paid 23% less than men for doing exactly the same work in the exact same occupations and careers, working side-by-side with men on the same job for the same organization, working the same number of hours per week, traveling the same amount of time for work obligations, with the same exact work experience and education, with exactly the same level of productivity, etc. In other words, the AAUW, NCPE, progressives, and gender activists falsely assume that employers all across America are using coupons like the one above to get a 23% wage discount for every woman they hire, and it’s that rampant, unjust and blatant gender discrimination that is the culprit behind the gender pay gap.

For example, Sen. Gary Peters (MI-D) said at this time last year that (emphasis mine): “Today, April 14th marks Equal Pay Day, the date by which women have made up for the wage discrimination they suffered during the previous year.” That’s complete statistical nonsense.

The reality is that you can only find a 23% gender pay gap by comparing raw, aggregate, unadjusted full-time median salaries, i.e. when you control for NOTHING that would help explain gender differences in salaries like:

  1. Hours Worked: The average man working full-time worked almost two more hours per week in 2014 compared to the average woman, see my analysis here.
  2. Type of Work: As I reported a few days ago, men represented 92.3% of workplace fatalities in 2014 (and the male share of job-related deaths has been consistently that high in every previous year) because men far outnumber women in the most dangerous, but higher-paying occupations like logging, mining and roofing that have the greatest probability of job-related injury or death. In contrast, women, more than men, show a demonstrated preference for lower risk occupations with greater workplace safety and comfort, and they are frequently willing to accept lower wages for the greater safety and reduced probability of work-related injury or death.
  3. Marriage and Motherhood: a) single women who have never married earned nearly 94% of male earnings in 2014 (but that does not control for anything else like hours worked, age, experience, education, occupation, children, etc.); b) more women than men leave the labor force temporarily for child birth, child care and elder care, and c) women, especially working mothers, tend to value “family friendly” workplace policies more than men, according this Department of Labor study.

Most economic studies that control for all of those variables conclude that gender discrimination accounts for only a very small fraction of gender pay differences, and may not even be a statistically significant factor at all. For example, as Andrew Biggs and I pointed out in a 2014 WSJ op-ed:

In a comprehensive study that controlled for most of the relevant labor market variables simultaneously—such as that from economists June and Dave O’Neill for the American Enterprise Institute in 2012—nearly all of the 23% raw gender pay gap cited by the UUAW can be attributed to factors other than discrimination. The O’Neills conclude that, “labor market discrimination is unlikely to account for more than 5% but may not be present at all.”

On Equal Pay Day, when groups like the AAUW and NCPE point to a 23% unadjusted gender pay gap and demand that the pay gap be completely closed, what they are really saying is that they want women to:

  • Work longer hours on average like men do;
  • Work in riskier, less safe occupations like logging and commercial fishing like men do where the chances of getting injured or killed are much greater;
  • Work in more physically demanding occupations like farming, construction, roofing, logging and working on oil rigs, where they’d be working alongside men outside in 100 degree weather in the summer and below zero weather in the winter;
  • Accept fewer jobs in family-friendly workplace environments like teaching elementary school that coincide with their children’s schedules (with summers off, etc.), and accept more jobs in less family-friendly workplace environments like being an over-the-road truck driver or being an oil field worker.
  • Take less time off, or no time off, for child birth and child care to minimize their time away from the labor force that might affect their earnings.

Bottom Line: Those who publicize Equal Pay Day and demand that the unadjusted 23% pay gap be reduced to zero are unknowingly really advocating that men and women play completely interchangeable roles in the labor market and identical roles in their family responsibilities; and that’s an outcome I don’t think most women (or men) really want. As the Department of Labor concluded in 2009, “The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.” They also concluded that “the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action.”

As I concluded on my recent related post, once we adjust for all of the factors that contribute to the raw difference in pay by gender, Equal Pay Day actually probably fell close to December 31 of last year. Or maybe the first week of January…. but NOT the second week of April. Women should be embarrassed by the economic myth that is annually perpetuated on their behalf by Equal Pay Day, which suggests that gender discrimination in the labor market burdens them with 14 additional weeks of work to earn the same income as their male counterparts earned the previous year – when that’s not even remotely true.

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The Bureaucratic Mind

From Kevin D. Williamson:

I have become over the years a connoisseur of the bureaucratic mind. I love to watch it operate, its inexorable and sometimes magnificent progress toward ends that range from trivial to malevolent. It provides all of the pleasures of observing a natural disaster or man-made catastrophe without (usually without) the body count. Needless to say, I do not enjoy interacting with it myself, but my inner libertarian never tires of saying, I told you so.

I recently was treated to an outstanding example of the genre. Traffic was snarled up on a busy thoroughfare in Houston, in part because one lane of traffic was blocked by a truck. The truck was a water truck, and workers were using that truck to water trees planted in openings in the sidewalk of a commercial district. Of course public agencies must plant trees: If private citizens were permitted to plant trees in sidewalks, then we surely would suffer terribly from variety rather than enjoy the comforts of conformity. And, because the public sector plants the trees, the public sector must maintain the trees.

It is impossible to imagine, even for the sake of argument, that driving through the car-choked urban streets of a city enduring some of the nation’s worst traffic with water trucks is the most efficient means of delivering water to trees. It’s the sort of thing that just might barely make sense in a desert city such as Las Vegas or Phoenix; given that Houston enjoys (“enjoys”) a humid subtropical climate in which the nearby Gulf of Mexico dumps about 50 inches of rain into the city annually (about the same amount of rainfall as Miami Beach receives) it isn’t clear that doing that is necessary at all, but doing it during the middle of the day, when there is a great deal of traffic, rather than at night, when there is not, borders on hostility.

So: The armies of bureaucracy blocking up traffic to water trees out of water trucks in a generally sopping wet subtropical city — big deal.

Except: This was actually happening in the rain.

That, for me, was really the kicker: the placid, stoic, cow-eyed fellow trundling out of his truck in his rain hat, shielding his face against the rain, to hose down trees during a rainstorm, in a city whose main weather-related problem is flooding. I really hope he was being paid $40 an hour. In fact, I stopped to inquire about the project, but the fellow with the truck parked in the middle of the thoroughfare waved me off with some annoyance: “You can’t stop here.”

Of course.

In the spring and summer of 2007, rain fell upon at least some part of Houston every single day for four months. But the local authorities will see to it that water from water trucks is poured upon trees during rainstorms — that is why those who would merely reform public agencies, rather than strangle them to death, will in the end be forever frustrated.

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