Union power is in terminal decline. In the 1950s 35 percent of American workers belonged to labor unions. This fell to 20.1 percent in 1983 and 11.3 percent in 2013. Between 1983 and 2013, union membership fell from 17.7 to 14.5 million while the population of the United States grew from 233.79 million to 316.99 million. New firms such as Microsoft and Google, and growing firms such as Wal-Mart and Apple, are not unionized. Old companies in old industries like General Motors are, though membership in the United Auto Workers has declined from 1.5 million in 1979 to 390,000 today. The ranks of the United Mine Workers of America have atrophied from nearly half a million in 1946 to 74,577 in 2013.
A story is told about Robert L. Bartley, late editor of the Wall Street Journal, and his penchant for long silences. He is supposed to have once taken a job applicant to lunch at which, though the two shared a meal, neither spoke a syllable. That is no doubt apocryphal; the job applicant probably said something. George Washington had a taciturn streak, as did President Coolidge, known as “Silent Cal.” Bartley made them seem like magpies. Not everyone likes being left alone with his thoughts. But rarely does anyone get as upset about it as Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker appears to be in respect of Clarence Thomas.
From the way the University of Texas at Austin’s boosters latch on to a bit of marketing jargon, bragging about their school’s invented standing as a “nationally recognized tier one research institution,” you’d almost think the term meant something. The truth is that the state’s best attempt at a public university ranks fifty-second in the nation.
So the school effaces its conspicuous mediocrity by talking up its research, the hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year supporting its globe-spanning research projects and world-class research libraries filled with millions of volumes (of research, for researchers). In one five-minute promotional video, I heard the word research 33 times.
The university’s president, Bill Powers, is the chair of the nation’s largest association of research universities, and his supporters hold him out as a champion of free inquiry. So it’s no small irony that this cult of research has waged a brutal campaign against a reform-minded university regent named Wallace Hall with this accusation: He has been doing too much research.
By the time you read this, nearly 90 percent of American adults will have filed their income tax returns for the 2013 tax year. And I will have finished drinking a glass of truly tremendous bourbon; 130 proof seems appropriate to numb the pain.
A big check to the state, and a much bigger one to the federal Treasury, reminds us of how little we get for the taxes we pay and how much the tax system is distorted to favor special interests and buy votes. (If you have to write a particularly egregious check to your state, you might want to consider this new and helpful Laffer Center calculator called “Save Taxes by Moving.” Those living in Tennessee get the best of both worlds: No earned-income tax but some very fine local whiskeys.)
The United Nations Human Rights Council angered Iran by renewing the mandate of monitor Ahmed Shaheed, who has criticized Tehran’s abuses. His work remains vital as long as Iran violates its citizens’ most basic rights.
At the same time nuclear negotiations continue. Dealing with Tehran could turn into the Obama administration’s greatest foreign policy success or another disaster. If the interim Geneva agreement leads to permanent denuclearization of the Islamic Republic of Iran, President Barack Obama can claim an achievement nonpareil. If the effort collapses, he will look dangerously naïve.
Everything depends on whether Tehran, and not just President Hassan Rouhani, is serious. No surprise, many analysts — and more importantly, paladins of Capitol Hill — remain skeptical. And that doubt has fueled efforts to impose new sanctions, which would impede if not kill efforts to reach a final accord.
If Iran is serious about joining the community of nations, it should demonstrate that commitment in practical ways. One of the most important symbols of Iranian irresponsibility today is its ruthless persecution of religious minorities.
The remaining two and a half years of the Obama Administration are a dangerous period for the world. There is a window of opportunity for rogue nations and adversaries to take advantage of an administration that has yielded on the world stage and put our foreign policy, if you can find it, into disrepair. Further, the president seems disengaged from foreign affairs, narcissistically absorbed with himself, and inciting class warfare and social unrest to cover for lack of success elsewhere.
The world of late night television been through upheaval lately, none of which seems specifically designed to make it funnier. First, Jay Leno retired and ushered in Jimmy Fallon, who has all the late-night charisma of a slice of Steak & Shake Texas toast. Not to be outdone, Fallon replaced himself with SNL alum Seth Meyers who was mostly notable for making SNL less funny. And not to be outdone by his NBC competitors, David Letterman will be replaced by Stephen Colbert, who is not a late-night talk show host or stand-up comedian, but a caricature of a Fox News talk show host last popular in 2004.
By Jonah Goldberg
Look, everyone loves Sean Connery, particularly Sean Connery. That’s why he plays Sean Connery in every movie he’s in. People love that Scottish brogue so much, they don’t mind that he has it when he plays Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez, an immortal Spaniard in Highlander. The guy even won an Oscar for playing an Irish cop with a Scottish accent. Talk about sexist double standards: Meryl Streep has to master foreign dialects to get her golden statuettes. Connery just has to show up on time.
In economics you devalue a currency by printing too much of it. In film you devalue a role by reprising it over and over again. If JFK had lived, his historical standing today might put him in the Rutherford B. Hayes category. But he died, and the mythmaking began. If Sean Connery had died after filming 1967’s You Only Live Twice, his name would be written into the firmament as the greatest Bond of all time.
Groundhog day, all over again, and we’re already off and running. Out in front of the pack for 2016, just as in 2008, is HRC, which is what Hillary Clinton told Ellen DeGeneres to call her. Whatever she’s called, she’s still ahead in the polls and, as usual, a media favorite. But there are miles to go, and she’s dragging a heavy load of baggage from decades past, to say nothing of the new luggage acquired during her tenure at the State Department: a destabilized Middle East and North Africa, where we’ve abandoned old friends and made new enemies, and where those who once feared us now laugh.
So “Racism” once more stalks among us! The Obama administration and its congressional minions are in full-court press style on the topic.
The country’s president and chief magistrate asserted the other day at a political rally put on by, of all racial demagogues, Al Sharpton that poor people and black people find it harder than ever to vote. Along came Atty. Gen. Eric Holder with his own tale of racial woe. A Republican-dominated House committee had roughed him up, he thought. “What attorney general,” he asked the same political gathering, “has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment? What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?”
New York Democratic Congressman Steve Israel, the party’s point man for congressional elections, took a similar line: “The Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism.” In chimed Nancy Pelosi: Race had “something to do” with Republican resistance to immigration reform.
The last month has been a blur, as I have been touring Jewish communities to sell my new commentary on the Passover recital of the Exodus, known as Haggadah. At the very least, with the Passover Seder gatherings on Monday and Tuesday night of this week, I can weigh in with these words, culled from the preface of my book.
“So how is the new job working out?”
“Honey, will you marry me?”
“I thought you would never ask!”
Some questions are welcomed in life; others are dismissed or ignored or belittled or answered half-heartedly.
Or how about these questions? “Daddy, why is the sky blue? Mommy, why is the grass green? Did God paint the grass with a brush? Why don’t the birds come falling out of the sky? How does the car go so fast? How can Grandma talk to me through the telephone if she does not even live in this city?”
You have to wonder how these things get started. Or maybe you don’t. The world is always filled with fantasies and wishful thinking. Newspapers and the Internet just make them circulate a little faster.
On April 7, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Materials Science and Technology Division put out a press release announcing it has developed an efficient way of synthesizing a jet fuel using carbon dioxide and hydrogen. There is nothing novel about this. You can synthesize just about any hydrocarbon from CO2 and hydrogen given enough energy and the right catalysts. What was unusual about the Navy’s development is that the process is compact and efficient enough to be done on board a ship. The hydrogen would be extracted through standard electrolysis from seawater. The carbon dioxide would come from the air. As the press release described it:
The federal government threatens a Nevada rancher with the loss of his private property. A Long Island man loses his life to Obamacare while a Virginia woman’s family says, “Obamacare killed my sister." IRS bureaucrat Lois Lerner is held in contempt of Congress, having emerged as the key figure in a scheme to deprive conservatives of their rights.
The “war on women” political slogan is in fact a war against common sense.
It is a statistical fraud when Barack Obama and other politicians say that women earn only 77 percent of what men earn — and that this is because of discrimination.
It would certainly be discrimination if women were doing the same work as men, for the same number of hours, with the same amount of training and experience, as well as other things being the same. But study after study, over the past several decades, has shown repeatedly that those things are not the same.
Constantly repeating the “77 percent” statistic does not make them the same. It simply takes advantage of many people’s ignorance — something that Barack Obama has been very good at doing on many other issues.
What if you compare women and men who are the same on all the relevant characteristics?
First of all, you can seldom do that, because the statistics you would need are not always available for the whole range of occupations and the whole range of differences between women’s patterns and men’s patterns in the labor market.
Bad as Obama’s poll numbers are, they bode worse for Congressional Democrats. Obama is being buoyed by continued strong support from Democrat voters. The problem for Congressional Democrats is that November’s election outcome will not be determined in Democrat strongholds.
Recent Quinnipiac polling data (released April 2, of 1,578 registered voters nationwide, with a MOE of +/-2.5%) showed the president with a deeply negative rating on his handling of the economy: 40% approval and 55% disapproval. In his sixth year in office, and the fifth year after the recession, 74% of respondents still rated the economy as “not so good” to “poor” and 71% said it was staying the same or getting worse.
The administration’s defining issue, Obamacare, was viewed equally negatively. Forty-one percent of respondents supported it, while 55% opposed it. This is only slightly better than Quinnipiac’s all-time low of 38%-56% recorded in January.
This same slightly-better-than-worst-case scenario prevailed on several other issues.
In the weeks leading up to the anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombings the media has focused its attention on those who survived their injuries. Perhaps the most notable example of this would be Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a dancer who lost part of her left leg during the attacks. Last month, Haslet-Davis danced onstage in Vancouver on a special bionic, prosthetic leg designed by a team at MIT.
The replacement of Kathleen Sebelius by Sylvia Mathews Burwell as the Secretary of Health and Human Services has been portrayed by the legacy “news” media as a new lease on life for Obamacare. The party line is that Sebelius was mortally wounded by GOP exploitation of a single uncharacteristic mistake — the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov — while Burwell is a brilliant Beltway veteran unsullied by controversy and possessing the very administrative skills needed to save Obama’s “signature domestic achievement.” As the Los Angeles Times put it, “Advisors to the president say he is putting his best organizational player into the position.”
“You can’t not love and hate the same person,” says Nick (Jim Broadbent) to Meg (Lindsay Duncan) — “usually in the space of five minutes, in my experience.” It’s the kind of writerly line — the writer in this case being Hanif Kureishi — that looks good on the page but proves a real bear the moment you try to illustrate it dramatically. In the case of Le Week-End, directed by Roger Michel (who also collaborated with Mr. Kureishi on The Mother and Venus, both about mismatched sexual partners), Mr. Kureishi has made it even more difficult for himself by putting his characters through the kind of mutually self-lacerating dialogue that makes Nick and Meg reminiscent of George and Martha in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? But sooner or later there comes out of nowhere — spoiler alert! — a plainly contrived peripeteia, after which love may be supposed to come on shift to take over for hate. It’s supposed to be a comedy, after all.
Judging by the horse he gave Defense Secretary Chuckie Hagel a couple of days ago, Mongolian Defense Minister Dashdemberel must be a very diligent student of the defense budget that Congress is now trying to craft. The horse, of course, is a gelding.
When the president announced his proposed budget and Hagel went to Congress to state the party line, I wrote that several indispensable weapon systems — the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, the A-10 Warthog attack aircraft, and half of the Navy’s 22 cruisers among them — would be retired. Under the president’s plan, military pay raises would be capped at 1% for the second straight year. Most of the fictive strategy the president brags about would have to be abandoned if the budget went through.
Because of these and other inanities in the president’s proposal, the House rejected it out of hand earlier this month by a margin of 413-2.
The Pew Research Center has issued an interesting report on the increasing numbers of women staying home to care for their children over the past dozen years.
Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal noted a companion opinion survey by Pew last year which found that “mothers are much more likely than fathers to work fewer hours, take a significant amount of time off, quit a job or — by a small margin — turn down a promotion in order to care for a child or family member.” Forty-two percent of mothers indicated they had reduced their work hours to care for a child or family member, compared with 28 percent of fathers.