Irritants du Jour - 2014-12-30

In the "URLs du Jour" posts, I usually blog about things I find insightful or funny. But I'm into my post-Christmas curmudgeon mode. So here are some items that I've found dishonest, ignorant, or generally irritating recently:

  • I'm mostly a libertarian kind of guy, but I'd like to propose legislation: any pundit that whines about the "disrespect" shown to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio by NYC cops should be required to produce past writings where he or she griped equally about lack of respect shown to a GOP politician like George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, etc. Pundits failing to do so will be required to append the description "Partisan Hack" to their byline. (E.g.: " Justin Baragona, Partisan Hack")

    I realize there are First Amendment issues here. So maybe just treat it as a journalistic guideline.

  • Another gripe is exemplified by Susan Wojcicki, who recently op-edded in the WSJ: "Paid Maternity Leave Is Good for Business".

    I was Google’s first employee to go on maternity leave. In 1999, I joined the startup that founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin had recently started in my garage. I was four months pregnant. At the time the company had no revenue and only 15 employees, almost all of whom were male. Joining a startup pregnant with my first child was risky, but Larry and Sergey assured me I’d have their support.

    So far, Ms. Wojcicki can only be accused of generalizing too broadly from the experiences of one person (her) whose leave did not derail one company (Google) from its path to success. But, sure, it's arguable that a maternity leave benefit can help companies retain valuable employees. And, if it's true, it's certainly something normal market competition will quickly demonstrate: companies offering the benefit will outperform those that don't.

    Ah, but that's not what Ms. Wojcicki is arguing for. Way down in paragraph four:

    According to a survey released in May by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization, the U.S. is the only country in the developed world that doesn’t offer government-mandated paid maternity leave. [emphasis added]

    Bit of a bait-and-switch there. Despite the headline, Ms. Wojcicki doesn't really care whether paid maternity leave is "good for business" or not. She wants it to be imposed on business. What's good for Google is good for the USA!

    It's easy to poke holes in (what turns out to be) Ms. Wojcicki's argument. David Boaz does it in 11 words: "If Only We Could Be More Like Djibouti, Haiti, and Afghanistan".

    But my kvetch is with Ms. Wojcicki's deliberate obfuscation of her position, which stripped to essentials is: "We want to do this for your own good, because you're too stupid to realize your own best interests." It's an argument statists, like Ms. Wojcicki, try to prettify, but it's like putting lipstick on a pig.

  • And then there are columnists like David Cay Johnston who recently penned an inequality piece for something still called Newsweek: "One Nation Divided by Wealth". It is a plug for his recent book, pretty much the standard "progressive" screed on the topic, and, as such, it has been widely debunked by others.

    Now, to be fair, there's stuff in there that isn't wrong. For example, Johnston notes that, in some states, (some) large employers are allowed to withhold state income tax from (some of) their employees' paychecks—and hang onto it! (To be sure, the states involved paint this odious practice as a "job creation" incentive.)

    But what struck me was Johnston's inability to maintain a self-consistent argument. Paragaph 12 begins:

    Worse [sic] of all, in myriad but oh-so-subtle ways, government helps big business drain your pockets and destroy competition from family-owned enterprises.

    Note the warm-and-fuzzy feeling Johnston tries to evoke with "family-owned" here. But later, railing against wealth-inequality:

    And it’s worth remembering that, by definition, most great wealth is in the form of untaxed capital gains—money that will never be taxed if the estate tax is repealed, allowing accumulated wealth to be passed on, untaxed, to heirs.

    Good luck maintaining that Johnston-admired "family-owned enterprise" if the Johnston-advocated estate tax confiscates a hefty fraction of its net worth on a family member's demise.

    So who knows what Johnston really thinks? Or cares?

  • And finally, my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, maintains its occasional tradition of covering a left-wing political demonstration with fawning prose, this one an opportunistic reaction to recent legal doin's in Missouri and New York:

    A large number of motorists passing by could see and interpret the message of the signs, with things like BLACK LIVES MATTER, WHAT COLOR IS JUSTICE.

    As they passed, horns were honked and thumbs up were given to the demonstrators. As dusk settled in, one particularly noticeable message was series of black squares lighted spelling out JUSTICE FOR ALL.


    Now my guess is that the demonstrators did not rise to what Thomas Sowell has called "a lynch-mob atmosphere toward the police." But who knows? If they did, every indication is that Foster's would not have reported it. Nary an inkling or hint is provided that there just might be another side to the simple story put forth by the demonstrators. All we get is an orgy of ideological self-righteousness, which the reporter and his paper are more than willing to abet.

Last Modified 2014-12-30 1:14 PM EDT