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Archive for September 24th, 2010

Here’s a change of pace. Instead of doing separate blog posts on the following two stories, I’m curious to see which one generates the most irritation/anger/disgust from you readers. The first option comes from the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, which is appropriately upset that Government Motors…oops, I mean General Motors…is back in the business of lobbying and dishing out campaign contributions. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with petitioning government and participating in the political process, but I don’t think individuals or companies should be doing it with money taken from me by a coercive government.
General Motors is 61%-owned by American taxpayers, who were less than thrilled when forced to buy GM by Presidents Bush and Obama. We can only imagine how GM’s unwilling owners will react now that the company is once again spending freely on lobbying and political campaigns. The Journal reports that the company has been particularly kind lately to Midwestern Democratic incumbents while shovelling out a total of $90,500 in campaign donations so far in the current election cycle. On the lobbying side, The Hill newspaper reports that GM has spent $7 million in the four quarters since exiting bankruptcy, retaining a who’s who of Washington hired guns. This may sound like the business model of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac all over again, but remember that the failed mortgage giants at least had to shut down most of their Beltway influence operation once they explicitly became wards of the state. GM has your money and now it apparently has the license to use it to lobby Congress and support its political friends. …There’s also the intriguing legal matter of the United Auto Workers union still lobbying Congress and supporting political campaigns even after becoming a partner with the government in the automobile business. 
The second option embarrasses me greatly, because it is a sign of bureaucratic nonsense from my beloved University of Georgia. A student got in trouble for sending an email to the Parking Services division to gripe about the lack of scooter parking. The snot-nosed bureaucrat who received the email apparently got the vapors because of this sentence: “Did you guys just throw darts at a map to decide where to put scooter corrals?  Can I expect you guys to get off your asses and put in a corral near there some point before I fucking graduate and/or the sun runs out of hydrogen?” This led to the student being subjected to real threats and potential disciplinary action. Fortunately, the great folks at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education came to the rescue and the craven bureaucrats at UGA backed down.
The University of Georgia (UGA) has withdrawn charges of “disorderly conduct” and “disruption” filed against a student after he sent a mocking e-mail to UGA Parking Services to complain about the lack of parking spaces for scooters on campus. Although Parking Services specifically asks students for both “negative & positive” comments on its performance, student Jacob Lovell spent nearly a month under the threat of punishment after submitting his e-mail. UGA backed down after Lovell came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “Jacob Lovell just wanted to park his scooter on campus, and when he found it a frustrating experience he sent a joking e-mail to the department that had asked for his feedback. But when it received his e-mail, he was threatened with punishment!” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “Only on a college campus could a clearly flippant response to requests for complaints about parking on campus be turned into a judicial investigation for disorderly conduct.” …On August 17, 2010, Lovell e-mailed Parking Services with his complaint about its service. His flippant and joking e-mail mused, “Did you guys just throw darts at a map to decide where to put scooter corrals?” and otherwise made fun of the department for what he perceived to be its poor job of providing parking for scooters. Four hours later, Parking Services replied, “Your e-mail was sent to student judiciary.” On September 3, 2010, Associate Dean of Students Kimberly Ellis sent Lovell a letter charging him with two violations of UGA’s University Conduct Regulations, stating, “Specifically, it is alleged that Mr. Lovell engaged in disorderly conduct and disrupted parking services when he sent an email to them that was threatening.” …The letter required Lovell to make a disciplinary appointment by September 13. Ellis informed Lovell that failure to do so would result in his record being “flagged,” rendering him unable to add, drop, or register for classes. Lovell complied with this requirement on September 13. Meanwhile, on September 10, FIRE wrote UGA President Michael F. Adams, explaining that Lovell’s grievance was protected by the First Amendment. FIRE also repeated to President Adams that UGA maintains unconstitutional speech codes in addition to the regulations used against Lovell’s protected speech, and that administrators could be held personally liable by a court for the violation of students’ constitutional rights, as a federal judge in Georgia ruled recently. On September 14, Ellis informed Lovell that she “did not find sufficient evidence to move forward” with the charges and that the matter was now “closed.”
So which story is more nauseating? In the grand scheme of things, the General Motors story is more meaningful because the company is stealing our money and then using our money to lobby for more handouts. Yet I can’t help but think the UGA story is very symbolic of arrogant and stupid bureaucracy. as many of us have experienced on our trips to a DMV or our efforts to get through security at airports. Every encounter creates the risk that a job-for-life bureaucrat may decide to make your life miserable.

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Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute decimates the bean-counting feminist “paycheck fairness” legislation being considered by the Senate. Republicans presumably know this is a bad idea, but one can only wonder whether they will do the right thing and block this initiative that at best will be a boon for trial lawyers and at worst will lead to massive government intervention in employment markets. Here’s an excerpt from her New York Times column.

…on the Senate’s to-do list before the November elections is a “paycheck fairness” bill, which would make it easier for women to file class-action, punitive-damages suits against employers they accuse of sex-based pay discrimination. …the bill…overlooks mountains of research showing that discrimination plays little role in pay disparities between men and women, and it threatens to impose onerous requirements on employers to correct gaps over which they have little control. …proponents point out that for every dollar men earn, women earn just 77 cents. …there are lots of…reasons men might earn more than women, including differences in education, experience and job tenure. When these factors are taken into account the gap narrows considerably – in some studies, to the point of vanishing. A recent survey found that young, childless, single urban women earn 8 percent more than their male counterparts, mostly because more of them earn college degrees. Moreover, a 2009 analysis of wage-gap studies commissioned by the Labor Department evaluated more than 50 peer-reviewed papers and concluded that the aggregate wage gap “may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.” …The Paycheck Fairness bill would set women against men, empower trial lawyers and activists, perpetuate falsehoods about the status of women in the workplace and create havoc in a precarious job market. It is 1970s-style gender-war feminism.

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