Sick Days, Vacation Days … Social Justice Days?

 

There’s a new trend in corporate benefits packages. Not satisfied with vacation days, sick days, and family and medical leave, many employers are now offering days off to protest the injustice of Trump’s America. From CNBC:

Technology start-up Polaroid Swing launched a policy on Tuesday allowing its employees to take paid time off work for political engagements such as protests or running for political office, co-founder Tommy Stadlen told CNBC.

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Guilty Men: Turkey and How Democracies Die

 

I see many comments and questions here for me today about Emmanuel Macron, the next round of French elections, and what they mean. I’ll get to them soon, I promise. Though with what’s happening on the Korean peninsula, I can’t blame anyone who thinks, “That’s enough of France; we’ve got bigger things to worry about.”

That’s kind of what I’m thinking, and I live here.

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The Bill O’Reilly Scandal

 

The biggest media story of the moment is that Bill O’Reilly has been dropped by Fox News as a result of multiple credible sexual harassment allegations. The most intriguing part of this story is why Fox forced O’Reilly out. It did not ease him out because of low ratings or because he admitted to wrongdoing. In fact, O’Reilly railed against the “unfounded claims” lodged against him. Nor did anyone invoke the laws against employment discrimination. No, the reason for his departure was the power of market forces.

In light of the sketchy revelations, over 50 advertisers pulled their spots from O’Reilly’s show, exposing Fox to the risk of financial losses and a reputational drubbing. There’s a lesson here for proponents of the administrative state: The best way to deal with thorny issues like sexual harassment is by following due process and allowing market forces to take their course. We do not need massive federal enforcement of the civil rights laws to curb aggressive and abusive behavior.

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Furniture for the Vapid

 

The following is a repost of a piece I wrote five years ago here, but when I saw Mike Rowe riffing on pre-distressed and pre-stained jeans at Nordstroms, I felt it deserved unearthing. I’ll have you know, the motor oil stains on my jeans ($30 Wranglers) are genuine, but if someone wants to pay me to stain theirs too, yeah, I’ll take their money! All $425 worth. Anyway, in honor of the latest effort at rich people attempting to look like the proles, I again offer up Furniture for the Vapid….

Today I received a catalog set (I do not know why) from Restoration Hardware, a company well known for its overpriced furniture. I would have tossed it out, but my wife snatched it from me and pointed to a page saying “Hey, do you remember the movie Zoolander? You remember Derelicte?” (I’ll wait here while you look up the reference.) My interest was piqued.

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A Bloody Cross

 

Tradition has it that, on April 23 in AD 303, a young and promising Roman soldier in the army of the Emperor Diocletian was beheaded after gruesome torture, and died professing his Christian faith to the end.

Very little is known of his life, but it’s believed he was born into a devout Christian family, perhaps in Cappadocia, an ancient district of Anatolia, somewhere between AD 270 and 280, and that he was raised at least partly in his mother’s home city of Lydda (Lod), in what is now central Israel.

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Why the H-1B Visa Racket Should Be Abolished, Not Reformed

 

Billionaire businessman Marc Cuban insists that the H-1B visa racket is a feature of the vaunted American free market. This is nonsense on stilts. It can’t go unchallenged. Another billionaire, our president, has ordered that the H-1B program be reformed. This, too, is disappointing. You’ll see why.

First, let’s correct Mr. Cuban: America has not a free economy, but a mixed-economy. State and markets are intertwined. Trade, including trade in labor, is not free; it’s regulated to the hilt. If anything, the labyrinth of work visas is an example of a government-business cartel in operation.

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Home

 

I’ve always felt like I was at home in the water.

I grew up in Arkansas rice country, next to the muddy Black River. Plenty of rain throughout the year made our already hot summers muggy and miserable. The rain always provided temporary relief from the humidity, but as soon as it stopped, misery set in with a new wave of wet heat, mosquitoes, and chiggers. I spent every summer with red, itchy welts up and down my legs, but it never stopped me from celebrating the rain by dancing around in it barefoot, with my face held up to the sky to catch raindrops in my mouth. I loved splashing through the puddles in the driveway, and disrupting the mini-waterfalls created by the rocks in the ditch. By the time I was done, I was always covered in grass clippings and pine needles.

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Why Are Private Prisons “Immoral?”

 

The Phoenix suburb of Mesa is Arizona’s third largest city, the spring training home to the Chicago Cubs, and, most famously, home to yours truly. Unlike most cities, our leadership is always looking for costs to cut, rather than expensive new programs to create. But their latest budget-minded initiative is angering the local powers that be.

For decades, Mesa has sent its misdemeanor offenders to Maricopa County jails, but that comes with a steep price tag. Over the past 10 years, the county has increased its daily housing prices by nearly 40 percent and its booking cost by more than 60 percent. So now the city is negotiating a deal with private contractor CoreCivic to house the inmates in a neighboring county. The move could save up to $2 million a year. Sounds like a win/win to me, but the county sheriff is seeing red ink:

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Introducing The Podcast Listener Tier

 

As you may have heard on last week’s Ricochet Podcast, we have recently introduced a new Ricochet member tier: The Podcast Listener tier. For $2.50 a month, members at this level can read the entire site (except for groups), but only comment on podcast posts.

In addition, we’ve also introduced the Lincoln level. Priced at $4.50 a month, members at this level can read and comment across the entire site, but cannot publish posts or participate in groups.

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Once Again, NAFTA Hasn’t Been a Disaster for America

 

President Trump has eased off China’s supposed currency manipulation, but he’s still pretty hot about NAFTA. When launching a probe yesterday into cheap Chinese steel — Beijing is hardly off the hook with the POTUS — he had this to say about that trade deal: “The fact is, NAFTA, whether it’s Mexico or Canada, is a disaster for our country.”

Almost certainly not true. Example: If these two JPMorgan charts didn’t indicate when NAFTA took effect, you couldn’t detect its impact on jobs:

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A Few Thoughts on Science

 

So the big march “in support of Science!” happened. I skipped it, since it was an obvious and transparent attempt to appropriate “science” for the political left. The whole self-regarding spectacle stank of red herring. The red herring being, of course, that conservatives are a bunch of snake-handling backwoodsmen who hate science. Or something. I have it on first-hand authority that there were many placards along the lines of “Evolution doesn’t care if you believe.” Very true. But it didn’t occur to the placard-carriers that if evolution doesn’t care, then carrying the placard is rather pointless. Unless you are a professional working biologist, loudly proclaiming your belief in evolution is useful for precisely one thing: social status positioning.

I am a big fan of basic science, including science that promises little in the way of practical returns. For example, on a strictly ROI basis, our considerable spending on research in cosmology and astrophysics has been a terrible investment. On this basis there is no way to justify something like the Hubble Space Telescope. Yes, it has increased our knowledge of the universe on the macro scale. But it is difficult to justify this cost as an investment – basically it’s consumption. The same is true of the manned space program. It cost a huge amount of money, and, despite all the promises of great new zero-g drugs and so forth, it has been basically a luxury bauble that we as a nation purchased to adorn ourselves, not an investment in an economic sense. (You could call it the Hubble Bauble.) In fact, the manned space program is much worse from an investment standpoint than the Hubble, because it hasn’t even gotten us very far in terms of basic science, let alone paid for itself economically.

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Politics in the Social Media Age

 

On September 26, 1960, American politics left the radio age behind. In the first-ever televised presidential debate, radio listeners considered Richard Nixon the winner. But television viewers, while hearing the same audio, contrasted Nixon’s dark countenance with the sunny disposition of John F. Kennedy — and came away with the opposite conclusion. If there were any question that TV imagery would shape political campaigns, it was laid to rest four years later, when Johnson used TV advertising to define Goldwater in the public eye, and demolished him at the voting booth.

In a similar way, politics’ television age ended with another presidential debate: Obama vs. Romney, October 16, 2012. With eerie parallel, those watching TV thought Romney won decisively, dominating the substance. Meanwhile, those who consumed their news via the new communications medium — Internet social media — took away a very different impression. They learned that Obama would keep a steady hand on the wheel of state, whereas Romney would wage wars on Big Bird and women alike (keeping the latter in his special binders). Moreover, if there is any doubt that a new age has dawned, one need look no further than the 2016 election, in which Hillary’s TV domination was inadequate to overcome an opponent with mastery of social media.

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Macron ou Le Pen? A Little Experiment for People Who Can’t Understand Either One

 

If your French, like mine, is spotty-to-nonexistent, I invite you to take a little test. Listen to the victory speeches that both Macron and Le Pen delivered this very evening. Watch their body language. Look at their eyes. Gauge their energy levels and the sounds of their voices. Ignore what they say — again, if your French is as spotty as mine, that’ll be easy — to respond to each at the most basic human level: Who makes you feel more alive? Who looks more like a leader?

My answer? Easy. Le Pen–by a lot. I’d been assuming until now that all the polls showing Le Pen would lose the second and final round of voting, which will take place early next month, have been correct. Now I’m not so sure. Le Pen, it seems to me, simply connects.

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Humor in Uniform

 

Reminds me of a story: I was a LT and we were doing some training in mainland Japan with their Ground Self-Defense Force. The three USMC rifle platoon commanders from my Company, Echo 2/9, were invited to our Japanese counterparts’ tent for dinner and drinks. An invitation, for obvious reasons (not the least of which was that the Japanese ate “real food” in the field and at that time MREs were still inedible [although they have gotten somewhat better over time]), that we immediately accepted.

We’re having a jolly old time and getting a serious saki and soju buzz when the Japanese officers’ Major joined us. All is well and rolling rolling rolling – rawhide(!) until he challenges me to arm wrestle him. I was always more the lean and mean type, and my buddies were built like fire hydrants so no wonder that I was the one who was “called out.” I begged off but the Major would not be denied. We go right handed and had a battle royale, which I eventually won. Then he wants to go left handed, I begged for mercy but he would not hear of it. We go again, and this time I win relatively quickly. The Major barks something to the Japanese LTs, and then one of them says a bit sheepishly, “Party over. You go home now.”

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I’m the Luckiest Man in the World

 

I’m standing in the kitchen eating a slice of Papa John’s pizza, watching my oldest daughter, who turned 25 last Friday, and middle daughter, who turns 24 tomorrow. They had some slices of pizza, then went outside to play badminton in the back yard. Youngest daughter (who turns 23 this June) is over at her fiancé’s house, no doubt working on their wedding plans. My wife is driving over to her brother’s place to check in on him—his health has not been good lately, and we’re concerned. My mother, who turns 89 this year, is over in her wing of our house watching something on Turner Classic Movies.

As I reflect on all these things going on, I think about how lucky I am. No doubt many of you think about how lucky you are. I may consider myself the luckiest man in the world, but each and every one of you Ricochetti out there is the luckiest person in the world in some shape, manner, or form.

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Coming to America: FGM

 

I couldn’t bring myself to spell out the initials in the title: Female Genital Mutilation. In fact, I nearly didn’t write the post, the topic is so abhorrent. But given the facts, and the manner in which this crime has been reported, I felt compelled to write about it.

Just over one week ago, Jumana Nagarwala was jailed in Detroit for practicing female genital mutilation on two, seven-year old girls. Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said, “The Department of Justice is committed to stopping female genital mutilation in this country, and will use the full power of the law to ensure that no girls suffer such physical and emotional abuse.”

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Last-Minute Thoughts on Marine Le Pen

 

By the end of the day, journalists will at last be able to stop writing the same column about “the most unpredictable election ever” and the awful choices France confronts. Voting has begun. The first exit polls will be published when polling stations close at 8 p.m. They’re usually fairly accurate. The final result will be in at about midnight. There’s one thing we needn’t worry about: I’m told by people who’ve long monitored these polls that they’re fraud-proof. I believe it. 

Anne-Elizabeth Moutet published this (excellent) piece for CapX yesterday about why this election is so hard to predict. She lamented on Facebook that the piece “was longer in coming out than a newborn auroch.” How I sympathize: My own pre-election piece wasn’t even ready before the election. I did finish the one about Turkey’s referendum (I’ll post the link when it’s up). But on this one, I failed to get the job done. Pretty rare for me. It happens, but I wish it hadn’t. 

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There Is Always a Cost and Sometimes Life Sucks

 

Like all parents I have tried to impart some wisdom to my kids and teach them certain facts about life. All three of them grappled with the fact that, unlike life in the movies and TV, in real life everything has a cost, and bad things may happen to you without any recompense. During their childhood when something bad happened my kids would sometimes get angry and would demand that “we sue.” I finally figured out that they saw “suing someone” as a way of getting some sort of justice. In TV land the bad guys usually get their comeuppance and people are made whole with no cost to anyone except the bad guy. We are a sue-happy society and it’s no surprise that our children pick up on this.

But the cost to our society is that we now have a generation that thinks that there should always be someone in power who puts things right on their behalf and that nothing bad should ever happen without there being some sort of justice. Since this is the generation who got participation trophies so their self esteem wouldn’t be damaged, we have raised a really sensitive bunch of kids.

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