“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Rest of Glenn Beck's Conspiracy Theory

I wrote this post yesterday concerning Glenn Beck's recent programs on the Mideast. Last night, Beck finished his series of three programs focusing on an alternative theory of recent Mideast developments, beginning with Hosni Mubarak's overthrow.

As a good presenter does, Beck began by recapping the highlights of the prior programs dealing with the issue. In doing so, he mentioned an important point I had forgotten to note in yesterday's post. Cass Sunstein's wife, Samantha Power, had written a book back in 2005 arguing for military intervention when subgroups of populations were at risk. According to Beck, the UN jumped on this, as did George Soros. Wonderboy hired her as a foreign policy adviser, thus providing an early link to Soros.

Beck contends that the real reason behind the broad adoption of Power's work by the "one-worlders" was to use it against Israel whenever it was deemed to be endangering the Palestinians. However, it became a convenient tool to use selectively against dictators in the Mideast.

I had also forgotten that Beck had already presented convincing evidence that Libya's strongman, Quadafi, had retained Cass Sunstein and George Soros to rehabilitate his image in the US. Also involved was the purchase of a graduate degree for the ruler's son, which became embarrassing for Soros, who funded it, when it became known that the work leading to the degree was plagiarized.

Meanwhile, Beck added the piece of information which he believes was the spark that allowed Soros & Co. to help destabilize Egypt. Mubarak's regime was planning to raise the price of the commonly-used cooking fuel, butane, which would have created a public backlash among the poor in Egypt. Thus, Beck alleges, Soros, Sunstein, Power and, thus, Wonderboy's administration began agitating for more 'democracy,' knowing that the regime was already courting trouble with its contemplated fuel price increase.

The missing piece, as you read this, would logically be,

'Why would Wonderboy and his associates, such as Soros, want to destabilize Egypt?'

Here's where the conspiracy part gets, well, you know, weird, like most conspiracy theories eventually do. It doesn't mean they can't be right. But it does mean you have to make a leap, usually involving some particularly insidious and unpleasant motives.

Beck believes, fundamentally, based upon a ton of written and video evidence which I've personally seen on his programs, that Soros, Sunstein, Ayers, Wonderboy, et.al., are enthusiastic proponents of the 'one world order' view. They also aren't particularly enthralled with Israel, either.

According to this theory, they want to push the US off the world stage as an exceptional, well-intentioned superpower, transitioning to world government of a more multilateral nature, especially led by the UN.

This is why you see the video clips of Ayers and Soros calling for world participation in the election of the US president. It also fits with Wonderboy's notable lack of leadership in the Libyan situation.

Again, according to Beck, whatever destabilizes the current world order which allows US leadership and power is a good thing, to these people. Thus, destabilizing the region which provides most of the world's oil is desirable for this group. Including Wonderboy.

Last night, Beck threw one more ingredient into the mix. It's a theme from other programs- the Twelfth Imam. I won't try to explain any of this myself. For starters, here's a low-rent entry-level Wiki on the twelfth Imam. If you Google the term 'twelfth imam,' you'll get plenty of material from which to choose.

Assuming you've read a little of that background, here's the rest of Beck's theory.

On last night's program, he had an anonymous CIA agent who had infiltrated Iran's government ranks. Needless to say, name, appearance and voice were all masked. He confirmed that Iran's leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, believes that the twelfth Imam's arrival is imminent. He and his ilk take this very seriously. Associated with his appearance is the coming of the Mahdi, and the return of Islam to Jerusalem. The whole process involves tremendous chaos and indiscriminate bloodletting.

Beck hit upon a rather common theme in American and even world politics, i.e., soft-headed, single-minded liberals getting into bed with zealots of either another political stripe or, worse, a religion. In this case, it's the latter. He contends that Wonderboy, Soros, et. al., don't understand, much less care about the beliefs of the Islamists that their own new world order may be at hand. The secular Westerners see the Islamists as convenient agents to assist in deposing the US as the world's dominant power, heedless of the much more focused, religiously-inspired agenda which our various Islamist enemies possess.

In Beck's view, our Western liberals are "playing with fire," unaware that, in the end, it is likely they who are being manipulated by the Islamists, not the other way around.

So that's basically the larger view of Beck's conspiracy theory.

I know, it sounds like a Tom Clancy novel, and then some. It takes some time to absorb it all and consider the implications.

However, I will observe this. Since the 1920s, America's and Europe's liberals and socialists have been, and are, famous for turning a blind eye to Communism's faults and crimes against humanity, the better to overthrow capitalism. How many soft-headed American liberal democrats and socialists found common cause with communists, thinking that the added horsepower of the latter group would be useful, to be cast aside when the goal of deposing the Constitutional Republic in the US, or, at least, capitalism, was achieved?

Progressives are guilty of the same sin, in my view. So, in that sense, Beck's thesis isn't at crazy at all. It would be a reprise of a theme we've seen several times in the last hundred years.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Glenn Beck's Conspiracy Theory Regarding Israel, Egypt, Soros & Wonderboy

I'm not typically an avid conspiracy theory fan. So I was sceptical of Glenn Beck's recent program last week which explored how the US, seemingly with the coaxing of George Soros' various institutes, foundations and sympathetic colleagues in the current administration, ended up on the sidelines while Libya's rebels attempted, successfully, at first, to overthrow Quadafi. Beck's point was that, if you cared to follow a trail of evidence, Soros and his minions had managed to loosely ally themselves with the dictator.

Last night, Beck presented his case for Soros and his allies, including administration regulatory czar Cass Sunstein and his wife, Samantha, Bill Ayres and his wife, Bernadine Dohrn, the former 1960s SDS radicals and Wonderboy pals, having discussed and agitated for 'democracy' in Egypt as recently as last November.

I can't do justice to Beck's case here, but I must say, it was very convincing. He connected a lot of dots, so to speak, most of which involved either Soros' funding of activities and publications pushing to destabilize Egypt, and seemingly coordinated efforts within the administration, led by Sunstein's wife, partially funded by Soros.

Beck's point, which was fairly-well made, is that Wonderboy, who already was clearly, at best, apathetic toward Israel, has either deliberately, or by allowing himself to be manipulated, helped to isolate Israel amidst a torrent of North African regime changes which could result in more stridently Islamist nations.

I know it sounds a bit over the top. But there are some background stories against which Beck's thesis plays which lend it some credence. Soros has called openly for Fox News to be muzzled. Meanwhile, none of the liberal network media, nor print, such as the New York Times, will follow up or otherwise touch the bulk of Fox News' stories on these topics. Beck's monologues on these topics are typically lavishly supported with web links, physical copies of books and other publications, as well as video clips. It's not as if Beck simply stands there expounding without any evidence.

It's very creepy to see videos of Soros, then, separately, Dorhn and Ayres all calling enthusiastically for worldwide voting in American presidential elections. And it's troubling to see Beck present evidence that Soros and his cronies are pushing for support of Islamist organizations that are either involved with, or advocating, policies and torturous actions which would be criticized in the US, were these activities fully understood.

As I wrote in the opening of this post, conspiracy theories make me uncomfortable. But this one actually makes a lot of sense. And the administration isn't responding to Beck's contentions, while Soros simply counterattacks Rupert Murdoch. Hardly the sorts of reasoned, positive explanations which give one comfort.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Durbin Digs His Hole Deeper

After writing this recent post regarding Dick Durbin's stupid debit card amendment, I happened to see him on CNBC yesterday morning attempting to defend it.

My remarks concerning his lack of experience in the real world really showed. He actually contended that retailers are so competitive that any debit fee savings would be seen in lower product prices at those retailers.

Senator (R-TN) Tom Corker, who actually had a successful business career before entering politics, came on after Durbin to blatantly dispute Durbin's idiotic remarks. Specifically, Corker said that nobody's going to rebate those fees to any consumers. They just increase margin.

Durbin went on to claim that with only two payment systems, it was hardly a 'free market.' Well, Dick, it's one more alternative than having a Senate full of uninformed blowhards just arbitrarily set the damn price, isn't it?

And, as Corker noted, nobody forces retailers to accept credit or debit cards. The choice is theirs, and those that do must think the fees paid for the card transactions are worth the added business or credit risk management.

Either way, Durbin's live remarks were simply preposterous.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rating Teachers For Compensation Isn't Hard At All

The weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal featured an interview with American Federation of Teachers union head Randi Weingarten. I'll address the interview and Weingarten's incredibly inflexible, almost martinet-like strict union-line responses in another post.

For today, I just want to point out the fallacy of Weingarten, and most teachers' complaints about attempts to rate them for compensation and dismissal.

On issues of merit-based pay and actions toward teachers, Weingarten replied,

"It's not the perfect mechanism, but it's the best mechanism we have. You have cronyism and corruption and discrimination issues. We're saying let's do things the right way. We don't want to see people get laid off based on who they know instead of what they know. We don't want to see people get laid off based on how much they cost."

The charges and fears of "cronyism and corruption and discrimination" are familiar to me. I had dinner this weekend with a friend who is a public school teacher. We've discussed these topics before, and Sunday evening, she reiterated her fears of non-seniority-based layoffs, i.e., favoritism.

Here's the problem. Those fears are what everyone else in white-collar, non-union jobs fears, too. My friend is what I would characterize as a white-collar union worker. Much like the longshoremen about whom I wrote some years ago. These union members, when, like my friend, cleverly and calculatingly remain in the same school, in the same district, for most of their career, become lifetime employees making the top salaries allowable in their district.

But that's a hot-house environment which is comparatively rare in America. I had sent the Weingarten interview piece to my friend by email, but she hadn't yet read it, so I restated Weingarten's 'fears' of non-seniority teacher layoffs.

Then I recounted for my friend the many cases of nepotism, favoritism, discrimination, sexism, and other assorted 'unfair' bases on which I'd seen colleagues promoted, retained or dismissed throughout my corporate career spanning AT&T, EF Hutton, Chase Manhattan Bank, Andersen Consulting and Oliver, Wyman & Co.

Because it was so long ago, so large, and, at the time, still growing, AT&T was probably where I saw the most egregious case of non-merit-based employment actions.

Stories were legion in the 1970s about the cliquishness which cemented employment prospects for many senior executives. Roger Moody, one-time AVP of Marketing Operations, was the brother-in-law of a prominent, more senior executive. If memory serves, that more senior exec was.....Business Marketing VP Archie McGill.

I worked in group whose director resembled Major Major of Catch-22. He, too, was the brother-in-law of a more senior, well-connected executive in Business Marketing. Tom was never accused of accomplishing anything. At all. In those days, many senior managers in the organization had risen simply because AT&T hired middle-level managers from companies, the operations of which it wanted to learn more about, to better market to them. Most of those hires simply wrote descriptions of customer needs which telephone products could serve, and were promoted for that. Often several times.

Thus, my Director, Tom, hadn't really done anything. But his relative protected his very cushy job as a Director in Business Marketing Development, the analytic group that managed business cases, which, in the early 1980s, paid in the range of $80K plus bonus. I had the distinctly uncomfortable opportunity of presenting to The Boot on one occasion. He had little grasp of what we presented, asked one or two largely inane, pointless questions, to show he could, then politely backed out of any further contact with the project. Unless we were presenting to his boss, whereby he'd show up, in order to share the valuable face time.

Perhaps the best example of cronyism at the old AT&T was what I called conspicuous investment, a term inspired by Thorstein Veblen's conspicuous consumption. Back in the late 1970s, Archie McGill created a sort of cult of admirers and suckups in Business Marketing. The group, created to help the firm prepare for a more competitive, less heavily-regulated future, had mushroomed rapidly througout the early- to mid-1970s.

McGill loved to ski, and had a condo at Vermont's Smuggler's Notch, which was a resort that had been owned by Tom Watson of IBM, McGill's former employer. In short order, any senior manager who knew what was good for him had a condo at Smuggler's, too. It became a major source of water cooler conversation among us junior managers. Many important informal meetings with McGill- much valuable face time- occurred on winter weekends at the Vermont vacation spot. I know of one mid-level manager who, thanks to his marriage to a woman from a wealthy family, was able to afford a condo, despite his lower rank. This afforded him opportunities for earlier-than-normal advancement, which he made sure paid off.

So entrenched was this investment clique that, years later, the AVP of Business Marketing, Bill Stritzler, an executive with no particular or distinguishing accomplishment at AT&T, escaped the collapsing world of near-divestiture AT&T by becoming the managing director at....Smuggler's Notch!

I'd seen women promoted for their physical attractiveness by older, married, licentious men to whom they had formerly skip-reported. The women didn't complain. They loved the promotion and the attention.

Like it or not, AT&T, then under an EEOC consent decree, promoted lots of unqualified minorities in order to stave off further government anti-discrimination lawsuits.

When I was promoted to District Manager, the youngest ever in AT&T, so I was told, I had to wait several months. The reason, I was bluntly informed, was that no white male in my AVP's group could be promoted until or without a corresponding female being promoted to the same level. So much for rewarding merit.

My point is, Weingarten, my teacher friend, and the bulk of teaching union members, want special relief from what the majority of their friends and neighbors must contend with for most of their careers, i.e., unfair cronyism.

As I explained this to my friend, she was speechless. As much as I like her, I have to be honest and say that she simply has no clue what the real private sector world of working and trying to fashion a career is like.

So, back to rating teachers. Weingarten is dead-set against it, of course. My friend is wary when I broach the subject.

But, during dinner, I brought the subject up, explaining how I learned about rating for promotion in my first job at AT&T in the late 1970s. The AT&T method essentially consisted of groups of managers of various levels, descending from Directors, to Division Mangers, to District Managers, rating their own direct reports, and those reports' personnel, so that groups of managers of each level would meet and rate the people under them. Each manager came armed with one or two of their people for whom they'd fight to have rated among the top few which the group of managers would all agree were promotable and had earned the highest raises. Each manager also knew which few people they'd refuse to defend, who could safely be rated at the bottom of the list of managers of that level.

But the key point was this. All of this rating only sought to identify, at each level, the small number of top-performing managers who would be eligible to interview for jobs at the next managerial level, and would be paid the best raises. The worst employees were also identified. But the bulk of the managers at each level were left in a broad middle group of largely-undifferentiated treatment.

This, I contend, is all that is required for teacher evaluations, too. Nobody's asking for some 30 teachers in a primary school to be rated 1-30. They just feel that the best few should be identifiable, as should the worst few. The rest can stay at the school, to be treated more or less equally.

My teacher friend didn't disagree with this, and found it reasonable. But it made her vaguely uncomfortable. Anything which truly moved in the direction of merit rating smacked of a potential for cronyism.

Again, welcome to the real world. When senior managers let everyone know they have a favorite subordinate, regardless of competence or qualifications, it's a foolish other subordinate who publicly raises an outcry over that favoritism. One typically either remains silent, or seeks another career path if such cronyism is too dysfunctional or pervasive.

Organizations of workers are communities. They are never perfectly administered or managed. No matter how many rules are promulgated, favoritism, cronyism, and discrimination creeps in to some extent. That's just reality.

Union chiefs and their members who expect taxpayers to foot the bill for the worst teachers being protected by all the other teachers and union members are living in a dream world. Nobody expects perfect information on the rating of every teacher in a school or district.

They simply want to know which are the best, and which are the worst.

Is that really so, too much for taxpayers to expect?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dick Durbin's Debit Card Games

Part of the Dodd-Frank bill passed last year that is soon to have serious consequences for consumers was a last-minute, virtually unread provision added by Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin to aid retailers and hurt banks.

Essentially, Durbin's amendment caps the debit transaction fee at 12 cents, which is much lower than current typical fees. I can't personally attest to whether Durbin's campaign funding benefited from the likes of Wal-Mart, Target, et.al., or not. But his amendment clearly distorts what were previously market-determined pricing structure for debit card processing.

Merchants receive major benefits from debit card usage. They don't pay a percentage of revenues as a discount fee which credit card purchases exact. And having customers use debit cards provides instant collection, reduces costs and risks related to the handling of physical currency, and, quite likely, enables more purchases for higher amounts than would otherwise be made with cash.

Why the US Senate needed to step in and set prices for this service is unclear. But that's what Durbin has done.

Now, with the law scheduled to take effect on Friday, people are becoming aware of his actions.

As a Wall Street Journal editorial points out, loss of debit fee income by banks will force them to raise prices on other services. As they wrote,

"Do you like free checking? Enjoy it while you can, because unless you're a high roller you will soon be paying for check-writing privileges. The price controls have also caused banks to deny credit to marginal borrowers- i.e., those with low incomes."

According to the editorial, something like $12B-14B will be lost to banks and accrue to merchants from the new law. But don't expect to see any impact on prices you pay in stores because the merchants pay lower debit card fees.

The Journal piece goes on to identify Senators who voted for this prior to November's election, but now have 'seen the light' and want to reverse it, if only for two years. This includes 17 Republicans.

My point in writing about this is to do two things.

First, to highlight what a nefarious numb scull Dick Durbin is. It's legislation like this which simply has no place in our federal laws and/or Congressional process.

Judge Andrew Napolitano, a contributor on Fox News and retired NJ judge, reminds viewers often that the Constitution stipulates that Congress' laws shall apply to all citizens. It's not supposed to be a special favors shop.

Durbin's gambit is a fine example of why voters have come to loathe and mistrust so many Senators and Representatives. Who in the hell is Dick Durbin to legislate what should be market-determined pricing for debit card transaction fees?

Why do these morons who become Congressional legislators suddenly feel that they know enough about anything to pass laws like this? Certainly, Durbin does not. Care to guess his pedigree?

You might have assumed, as I did, correctly, that his academic background was- law school. Meaning he has virtually no practical knowledge about anything regarding the US economy. But it's much worse than that.

Durbin interned with and apprenticed to one of the lesser lights of Illinois' contributions to the US Senate- Paul Simon. No wonder Durbin has a huge appetite for legislation which contrasts with his apparent non-existent common sense. A chip off the old uber-liberal block of bow-tie Paul, Durbin is essentially a lifer- a professional federal politician. His bio mentions no real work experience between being Simon's staffer, then running for a House seat.

The most vile, despicable breed of Congressional legislator- the lifetime federal hack.

Between ObamaCare, the Dodd-Frank bill, and the EPA's assault on coal, oil and natural gas, It seems there's nothing Washington won't try to legislate or dictate to us anymore.

I guess the silver lining in Durbin's crafty, disingenuous behavior is that it provides such a clear example of what's wrong with Congress.