December 15, 2006

silhouette3.JPG From the desk of Jane Galt:

If you want to know why I am no longer a lefty, just read this series on MyDD about PIRG, the organisation that supervised my transition from ultraliberal to libertarian. I have never worked at any organisation, including the Catskills hotel that basically used foriegn temporary labour in sweatshop fashion, that treated its employees as shamefully as PIRG. People talk about workers being disposable, but no other business model I have encountered depends on its employees having an average tenure of two weeks, the better to funnel their lost wages up the hierarchy to god-knows-where. It's all there in the series, what happens to you if you threaten to make too much money: the paycheck mixups that all run in favour of PIRG and somehow can never be rectified, the sudden firings of people for having a bad day, the curiously malleable policies on things like sick leave and holiday pay, which ensure that no one actually ever collects same, the shamelessly llame pretexts for getting rid of the overly successful, and the deliberate assignments to bad turf in order to depress your wages and thus force you to quit, or if that doesn't work, give them an excuse to fire you.

It all comes flooding back, how with big balloon payments coming to the good door-to-door canvassers at the end of August, suddenly on August 1st no one could lay their hands on our paychecks. (Given that we made $200 a week pre-tax, there wasn't much chance we had been saving up to cover the shortfall). I have many, many favourite stories from that delightful period, but I think the best was the turf that they found to stick me on for one delightful week in mid-August. They were vast tracts of long rectangular buildings, perhaps 15 feet wide and hundreds of feet long. Inside, they were carved into something like railroad flats, one room wide; outside, the paint was peeling, the casement windows were out of plumb with the sagging frames, and the grass was everywhere growing through the cracks in the concrete walks. They looked like decrepit army barracks, which may have been what they were; at any rate, they were built sometime during World War II. Making my way up the seasick waves of dilapidated concrete walkway, I used to try to envision what this all had looked like when it was clean and new, and people had been happy to live there. I could sort of see it, much as you can just barely discern the lingering shadows of a happy young bride in your grandmother's silver anniversary portrait.

But no one was happy to live there now. They were there because it was the cheapest real estate to be had in a low-income town on the border of Philadelphia. People went there when they admitted that nothing was ever going to get any better: welfare mothers, elderly people collecting the minimum Social Security payment, young men on disability. Needless to say, none of them had the $15 minimum membership fee, which we had been told, over and over, was the very least we were allowed to ask for during our "rap".

I was a field manager for PIRG, before that; I would have skipped turf like that. I certainly wouldn't have put anyone on it two nights in a row. And certainly not five nights; there weren't enough houses for that, even if they had been affluent. Yet I stayed there five nights, knocking as lightly as possible on door after door, so as not to knock the things entirely off their hinges.

It seems worth mentioning that missing your weekly quota was a firing offense. Someone wanted to make damn sure I didn't make it to August 28th; I was, I believe, the third or fourth best canvasser in the state that summer*, and I had a big balloon payment coming.

Just around that time, my quota, and that of a few other high performers, was suddenly and inexplicably raised to $85 a night.

I made quota every. damn. night. I did it by never asking for $15, which would have earned a horrified laugh from anyone in that neighbourhood. I collected quarters, nickels, dollar bills, occasionally $5. I had an unprecedented 98% response rate. During the entire week, I think I might have spoken to three people who were employed.

Now, of course, I think of myself getting money from those poor people for PIRG, and I writhe in shame. Because of course, the whole thing is a massive scam. All the money from the canvass goes, not to the cause, but to the canvass: you are paying them to collect your name so that they can sic telemarketers on you several times a year. The canvassers don't believe in what they're saying, at least not in any reasonably creditable way; they are told what to say and exactly how to say it, about issues they know nothing more about than you do. Many of them shamelessly lie; others repeat untruths they picked up somewhere with the best of intentions and the worst of results. Even after the telemarketers are through with it, at almost no point does the money ever get used for the things that are stressed in the pitches, like research, preservation, rescuing human rights victims, and so forth; administrative costs for most of these operations are, as a percentage of total revenues, in the high double digits. Their idea of a really effective use of the money is lobbying the government to take more out of you in tax dollars, and spend it.

"Most people hear `Environment California' and think `oh, sure, I know you guys,' even though it's the first time we were talking to them," said Marcy, who found those campaigns to be particularly easy to call into. Marcy befriends most people instantly, and can give the warm, comforting impression that the person is already quite familiar with whatever it is that she is talking about. Details like 'what is this organization, and what does it do' simply don't matter all that much when Marcy is talking to you about the environment.

"I'd been raising them so much money for so long, and I'd had my doubts before," Marcy says, "but now that I was looking at it square in the face, I just didn't know where it was all going. I'd been there on the phone telling people `we won this with your help, and now we need you to do this other thing,' but the more I looked, the more I just saw smoke and mirrors, just this big circular pattern."

- / -

Supposedly, Environment California's big shining success was that California solar roofs bill for which the TOP raised money so furiously. After several years in which the bill was shot down, taken apart, and forced to regroup, it has finally passed.

I have a PIRG pamphlet ("30 Years of Action in the Public Interest") that lists this victory, along with a set of achievements and victories won by these organizations. But if you look chiefly at the list of the last fifteen, twenty years, almost all of the victories have words like "helped" and phrases like "and a coalition of."

PIRG does have lobbyists; PIRG lobbyists do write reports and send letters to legislators about various policy initiatives. That much is fact enough. Who do these lobbyists report back to? Not the membership. Not the individual state PIRGs. The lobbyists brief the callers and the canvassers every few months, often over the phone, and the briefings are "not much more specific than the raps."

As a result, the canvassers, callers, and directors alike cannot say in any substantive way what it is that the lobbyists and advocates actually do by way of the funds that are raised. The calling raps, like the canvass raps, claim that the campaigns are working to "show" how much support there is, to "hold politicians accountable" and to "get legislation passed" - but beyond those claims, they are almost entirely devoid of information about the campaign at hand. Callers are actively discouraged from getting into time-consuming discussions about the issues and campaigns in detail. As for those members who ask about, say, what a PIRG advocate does and how the campaigns work (in greater detail than "lobbying" to "get" important bills passed) - "those people are supposedly `not worth our time,'" says Joe.

All the workers angry at being abused were also abusers fo the worst sort. Like me, to all of our eternal discredit, they only started wondering about what they were telling other people when they realised that they themselves were being scammed.

I could have stood the abuse, though it certainly dinged my righteous armor to realize that activist groups could behave worse than the most abusive employer--worse, because they had not even private shame about it. It was all for The Cause, you see. But every movement has its bad apples. I could have stood that. But it did me in to realize that being an activist was making me a bad person.

* No, I do not have any excuse for this.

Posted by Jane Galt at December 15, 2006 3:11 PM | TrackBack | Technorati inbound links"); ?>
Comments

Wow..Now I am really glad I didnt take a job with PIRG after I graduated and joined Teach for America instead. Teachers have unions, ok pay, and I felt like I was actually doing something.

I assume that this is not the sole reason to become a libertarian. Its never good to take the actions of a few and blame the whole group, with religions or philosophies.

Posted by: Jennifer on December 15, 2006 4:05 PM

Because there are so many GOOD leftists Jennifer. Right? Find me an honest one that produces good results for people, maybe we can talk. But they have to live it and be productive in their work, rather than counterproductive.

In other words, there's no such thing, it is an ideology responsible for the murder of Hundreds of millions that continues to kill millions a year by enforced poverty, starvation, class war, and terrorist activity. "But their intentions are good".

What was Pinochet's greatest crime? He only shot 3,000 leftists, and let the rest escape.

Posted by: Hey on December 15, 2006 4:23 PM

Ah, thanks for the memories, bringing me back 17 years to this week (or one very near it) and my brief career as a CalPIRG canvasser during Christmas break my first year of college. My first night, with optimism and fire in the belly, I missed my $85 quota, the one that had to be met in the first three days to be allowed to stay on, by $9. No problem...if that's the first effort, my second night would surely yield more.

Or not...

The next two nights brought a total of $30, though I did manage to write down the license plate of a purse snatcher as he got away. Though I was clearly frazzled, my bosses took pity on my insistence that I really could do it and gave me one more night. When I managed to pull in a paltry $25 that last night, it was with shame and a lump in my throat that I got into the car to go back to the Pirg office. To top off the defeat, the pretty canvasser who had earlier in the week suggested that we visit the Museum of Modern Art somehow didn't manage to hear me when I brought it up again.

But a woman likes a man with a job, even as a Pirg canvasser.

Thanks for taking some of the sting away.

Posted by: alan on December 15, 2006 4:45 PM

This is true of almost all door to door canvassers. I had the pleasure of meeting a bunch of the people who run the door to door magazine/cleaner/etc. scams at a hotel conference center where I was at another conference. They were a pretty fun bunch of small time crooks. Their tough talking ex-druggie in a wheelchair attorney was the best! But at least they sold something with some utility, they only scammed their employees.

The Problem with PIRG was that it was always a scam. The college chapters were the key as they got nearly free money with no oversight. Ol Ralph Nader was smart in that people would not contribute enough cash directly to fund the high overhead/vague results program he envisioned.

However this is only the sleaziest part of a growing issue with non-profits in general. You can make a really good buck running 'charities'. Salaries for heads of charities are regularly in the high six figures. When there are no shareholders to report to and you are saving the world the skies the limit.

Posted by: Dave Moelling on December 15, 2006 4:46 PM

[W]orse, because they had not even private shame about it.

It is sad when groups end up like this. There's no cause that unscrupulous people won't abuse. It's like hearing of the cases of ACORN and the socialist bookshop in Chapel Hill (the Internationalist) failing to pay their workers minimum wage... for working on a minimum wage raising campaign. Or ACORN firing people for organizing unions. Or unions paying people minimum wage or less to protest the (higher) salaries at Wal-Mart.

Posted by: John Thacker on December 15, 2006 4:50 PM

I see this over and over in the right-wing blogosphere. Some young liberal had a bad experience with one fellow liberal or liberal organization and suddenly they switched sides.

Don't you have any convictions? Because some or even many people on one political side are a certain way has little to nothing to do with the correctness of their political beliefs.

You guys treat political affiliations like being fans of a sports team. Oh no, Allen Iverson's whining again -- now I'm going to be a Cavs fan!

Posted by: JewishAtheist on December 15, 2006 4:56 PM

Ah, the memories...I canvassed for the Campaign to Save the Environment (run the PIRGs) the summer after my freshman year of college. Looking back, I think the experience was really valuable for me in learning how to fundraise and 'make the case' about a cause ā€“ not to mention building confidence in interacting with strangers ā€“ but Iā€™d have to agree that it's a pretty exploitative business model overall.

Posted by: Jessica Pickett on December 15, 2006 5:04 PM

Funny.

The two biggest reasons I am the right-wing conservative that I am are Phil Donahue and the Children's Defense Fund.

I'm sure this isn't just a phenomona with left-leaning institutions like the CDF and PIRG. I wonder how many people's viewpoints are a result of bad exposure to an entity that advocates something completely different than where that person ended up today.

***Yes, yes. I know. Jimmy Carter has got to be the biggest Republican/conservative recruiting tool of all time. But I was a wee lad when he misled the country. It wasn't until years later that I realized he was the reason some men are called 'boobs'.

Posted by: Reagan Fan on December 15, 2006 5:14 PM

All of this is reminding me of the summer I worked for DialAmerica (a telemarketer) selling magazine subscriptions and occasionally raising money for some charity or another. I learned quickly not to be offended at the people who hung up - at least I was able to move on quickly to the next potential victim. I also learned to recognize the people who asked lots of questions but never had any intention (or capability) of buying - they just liked to talk or had some time to kill. I found that I was both pleased and a little disappointed by the ones who actually did sign up for a subscription or two.

Eventually, I got smoother at the pitch and was totally into making the sale and seeing my name up on the board. The whole thing was a G-rated version of Glengarry Glen Ross.

Eventually, though I just felt kinda dirty. I came to realize that such selling was to true "salemanship" as ambulance chasing is to the practice of law.

Wait, no, that didn't come out right. Or did it?

Posted by: AJ on December 15, 2006 6:40 PM

I read the whole thing -- wow. That makes the money that I pseudo-involuntarily gave OSPIRG through my stay at the University of Oregon even more irritating. Ugh.

Posted by: Klug on December 15, 2006 7:30 PM

The most annoying thing about PIRG, to me, is how it gets PIRG-earmarked fees attached to state university tuition. Even in states where the fees aren't mandatory, students aren't told they can be refunded.

Posted by: Dan on December 15, 2006 8:44 PM

I seem to recall Ben Franklin saying in his autobiography that he had become a Deist as a result of reading a bunch of tracts denouncing Deists. So this isn't just a phenomenon of the Right Wing Blog.

Posted by: albatross on December 15, 2006 9:09 PM

For crying out loud, people. Jane doesn't literally mean that her bad experience with a PIRG (I have a friend in the same boat right now) was the sole factor in her political metamorphosis--but is it so hard to understand that such an experience might serve as a catalyst? People on the left talk a good game but when you get a glimpse of systemic hypocrisy, sometimes you think twice about the philosophy you've thrown in with.

Robert Nozick was a college leftist as well. He claimed that his change in thinking was brought about because he couldn't figure out what would *in principle* be wrong about raising the minimum wage to $100 an hour. When neither he nor his professors could give an adequate answer, he started thinking things over.

I know lots of libertarians who have similar stories.

Posted by: Andrew on December 15, 2006 10:23 PM

This is an interesting thread, because when I look back as to how I first identified with the Democrats, it was because of the way the Republican Party in my home state took advantage of my grandfather's Alzheimer's to bilk him out of large sums of money. Eventually, his health care was paid out of what remained of my grandmother's estate, his own money having gone to fund Republican candidates and Lubavitchers (the other group that smelled fresh meat and sunk its teeth in.)

I'm sure I would have come around eventually, though, for other reasons. But that's how it started.

Posted by: Brittain33 on December 15, 2006 11:06 PM

Fascinating stuff; I went and read the entire six-part article, which ended up naming Doug Phelps. Googling on that name didn't turn up much, but taking a stab at "Douglas Phelps" did.

One of the top hits tied a "Douglas R. Phelps" to the PIRGs...and another top hit tide one "Douglas R. Phelps" to Scientology.

Same guy? I wonder.

Posted by: TJIC on December 15, 2006 11:24 PM

Well, at least it's a better conversion story than "I read Atlas Shrugged and John Galt made me wet."

Posted by: Immoralist on December 16, 2006 3:20 AM

"I read Atlas Shrugged and John Galt made me wet."

I don't want to start a fight about this, but do women find comments about something "making them wet" as offensive as I think they do? Not quite on the level of using the c-word, but up there.

Posted by: Brittain33 on December 16, 2006 9:07 AM

Hmmm, as someone who has no fondness for progressives and their meddling and interference with other people's rights, I see many societal advantages to the PIRGs:
1) They diminish the finite money supply of progressives through canvassing.
2) They fritter away that money on high overhead costs, leaving little left to actually meddle and interfere with other people's rights.
3) They burn out young idealistic progressives and leave cynical towards their activist community bedfellows.
4) In some cases, they actually convert people from being progressives into libertarians or conservatives.

I wonder if I can make a donation to PIRG management to keep up the good work!

Posted by: Kevin P. on December 16, 2006 9:41 AM

PIRG and many other nonprofits are simply corrupt.

Quite a few supposedly Religious, Liberal and Conservative organizations are simply exploiting a specific cause to leach money from "the believers".

Before working for any nonprofit one should examine the record of donations collected and see what percentage is distributed for the cause and what percentage if used for overhead. If these numbers arent transparent then it's probably part scam.

Posted by: cb on December 16, 2006 9:53 AM

PIRG is typical of the way all leftists think. We think that way because either some of our brain connections never formed, or because we were brain injured at some point in our lives. We simply can't help it.

Posted by: Brittain34 on December 16, 2006 10:36 AM

I did telemarketing for my University's alumni fund for a few weeks my first year in college. In the training, they told us that we weren't like telemarketers. Instead, we were connecting with alums who wanted to know how things were going at their school, and then might be happy to contribute money. Some could even get matching contributions from their employers! So we have this script where we tell them all the exciting plans in one and a half breaths and most of the people say now is not a good time or the alum isn't home or whatever. There were a couple of ringers in the office who would get the $1000 contribution every other night. Nobody told us that they were getting the good leads. ABC, Coffee's for closers and all that. Now, whenever I get the call, I thank them for calling, tell them I will buy them a building when my winning lotto ticket arrives, and chuckle a little, knowing that unless they get that $1000 contribution with 8:1 employer matching from Fluour (a local employer at the time), I was probably the highlight of their evening.

Posted by: Brad Hutchings on December 16, 2006 12:20 PM

I can see how an idealistic young person might at first believe everything they're told, since it sounds good and fits with their preconceptions. Then, when they realize that they've been lied to in one area, they stop to actually think through the entire approach clearly, which could lead them to new conclusions.

I have a hard time understanding liberal thinking and have thought a lot about the differences. What bothers me about so very many liberals is their double-standards, as with Acorn not paying minimum wages. The same people that agonize over the Patriot Act and the loss of privacy and civil liberties in the US don't seem to mind the excesses of foreign dictators (as long as those excesses are accompanied by populist propaganda). The people that attack the US for torturing prisoners at Guantanomo Bay rarely mention the death camps in North Korea or China selling the organs of executed prisoners.

One possiblity that I've thought of is that perhaps liberals worry more about the ends and are willing to accept whatever means seem to be needed ('you have to break a few eggs....'), while conservatives tend more to believe in rules and incentives, with 'fairness' being based on equal opportunity rather than equal outcome.

These are broad generalizations, of course, but I just don't understand how so many liberals can vehemently attack the US and yet seem so unconcerned about, for example, the tens of millions killed by communism. I have a hard time piecing out a consistent set of values from them.

Posted by: Ann on December 16, 2006 2:32 PM

Posted by Brittain34

I've been using this name online for perhaps four years and no one has ever thought to do that before. I'm really pleased.

Posted by: Brittain33 on December 16, 2006 3:19 PM

So was there a Brittain 32?

Posted by: lee on December 16, 2006 3:52 PM

It's a random name.

Posted by: Brittain33 on December 16, 2006 3:53 PM

Ann: I think you (and others here) are conflating a number of muddleheaded, or possibly mercenary loons with "liberals". It's an error of roughly the same magnitude as conflating the hard half of the religious right with "conservatives". I know a lot of leftys and liberals. Sometimes, I even play one on television, despite mostly libertarian leanings. I don't know anyone personally who excuses the millions killed under communism, in NK, Cuba, China, SU or wherever. This idea that it's reasonable to laud Pinochet and other statist tyrants who included a dollop of economic freedom in their authoritarian regime because some amorphous number of "liberals" think that totalitarian communism was A-OK, is illiberal nonsense. For every loon you find that praises Castro, I can find you a right-winger making equally offensive statements about somebody else.

I challenge the US for our mistakes and tyrannies, because we claim to be better, and we are supposed to be better. Castro is NOT-OK, Pinochet was NOT-OK, and even George W. fucking Bush is NOT-OK, and Al Gore, or Barack Obama or John McCain or whoever else ends up in the white house in 2 years will probably be very much NOT-OK either. That doesn't mean they are worse than Castro. I don't go on about Castro, because I don't *expect* Castro to be anything other than a tin-pot dictator. I expect more from the President of the United States.

Posted by: Michael Sullivan on December 16, 2006 7:33 PM

Well said Michael!

The same people that agonize over the Patriot Act and the loss of privacy and civil liberties in the US don't seem to mind the excesses of foreign dictators

I don't want people to be killed or tortured in N. Korea. I think a lot more people will die both in the North and South if we invade or launch a nuclear strike against them.

"Liberals don't care about people in N. Korea" comes off to me roughly the same as Democratic claims that "Republicans don't care about the poor."

It is specifically because the means are critical in both cases that war and economic tinkering are perilous.

In the case of economic tinkering, I don't begrudge anyone their luxuries. Their extravagances are not my concern. Some liberals, I'm sure, would disagree. Some liberals were unfortunately influenced by communist propaganda, and women's studies courses seem to still be affected by this, unfortunately. My concern, however, is that when you have few people with tremendous power, they can use that power to subvert the democratic process.

Democracy doesn't so much create equality as acknowledges its existance. In countries where inequality is great, democracy seems to languish and rent seeking behavior abounds.

Posted by: Ryan on December 16, 2006 7:56 PM

Ann - with 'fairness' being based on equal opportunity rather than equal outcome.

My understanding is that at least a portion of those liberals who desire "equal outcomes" view unequal outcomes as prima facie evidence of unequal opportunity.

Posted by: Ryan on December 16, 2006 8:26 PM

Are reporting requirements for, loosely put, "non-profits", different from, oh dear, "for-profits". why?
A request: If your answer includes Enron, think for a minute about the ratio of non-enrons/enrons in the economy and desist from answering. I'm aware this is an imperfect world, and I don't try to look for more than the least imperfect solution with allowances for the odd Enron.
Thanks.

Posted by: Saloner on December 16, 2006 9:37 PM

Addendum: Thanks for the very thought provoking article Jane. It is sad enough that good intentions pave the road to hell; it is criminal when they are made fodder for the rapacity of a few.

Posted by: Saloner on December 16, 2006 9:48 PM

On point: I dealt with a Pirg-like organization in Ohio (OPIC) when I was just out of college. I ended up washing out, mostly because I asked too many questions like this and didn't get any good answers, so I never had much oomph to my presentations. It's really hard to convince people to give an organization $15 (or more) when you aren't really sure it's all that great an idea.

I managed to make quota a few times anyway but not consistently, so I was gone after 2 weeks, which is alright because I was already planning to quit as soon as I found another job. I think about a day before washout, I finally found out that on the sheet indicating administrative costs were in the 15-20% range (still high), the expense category called something like "community awareness and education" which accounted for roughly 50% of revenue, referred to ... wait for it ... the canvassers. Because we were just so *full* of helpful, detailed information about the issues we were canvassing for.

I'd been buggin' for this info, because I'd realized pretty soon after arriving that I was getting paid close to 50% of my quota, and the quota wasn't breathtakingly easy. The better canvassers weren't making 5 and 6 times quota. Plus there were people running the office etc. who weren't actually canvassing. The numbers just didn't add up until that bit about "community awareness and education" clicked into place. Oh, a scam, I get it.

On the few occasions since then when the PIRG people come to my door, I become the activist, trying to get them to hang up the clipboard.

But I don't see this as a knife in the heart of liberalism in general. PIRGs aren't any worse than a lot of fundy organizations or the CoS, for example.


Michael

Posted by: Michael Sullivan on December 16, 2006 10:46 PM

Are reporting requirements for, loosely put, "non-profits", different from, oh dear, "for-profits". why?

Simply put: the reporting requirements for "for-profits" apply only to those who issue equity or debt to the public (no reporting requirements at all for purely private companies), and are intended to protect investors and lenders from scammers who might take their money despite promises of big profits. Such concerns do not apply to non-profits.

Posted by: Rob Lyman on December 17, 2006 6:55 AM

Tom Delay's charity for foster children and
Rick Santorum's charity combating social ills are
two examples of gross abuse of public charities, funneling corporate dollars to the candidates friends and relatives.

Both charities had extremely high expense ratios, far worse then PIRG.

Liberal or Conservative, abuse of charitable giving cuts both ways.

Posted by: anon on December 17, 2006 8:49 AM

Tom Delay's charity for foster children and
Rick Santorum's charity combating social ills are
two examples of gross abuse of public charities, funneling corporate dollars to the candidates friends and relatives.

Both charities had extremely high expense ratios, far worse then PIRG.

Liberal or Conservative, abuse of charitable giving cuts both ways.

Posted by: anon on December 17, 2006 8:49 AM

I started on the road to being a conservative when my application to join the mobbed up union local got lost. I had been of proud to join the movement that had done so much to improve the lot of the American worker. Then the union steward grabbed me by my lapels and threw me against a wall and essentially threatened to have me worked over by his goon. Gosh, that opened my eyes. -- Don't ask me about the vocational center for retarded people I worked at next, its too ugly. Let's just say that these poor severely handicapped, childlike people were not protected from predators.


....when you have few people with tremendous power, they can use that power to subvert the democratic process....

And this result is more likely to come from the current flavor of liberalism (socialism) because they accept coercion as part of their political armementarium. You provide an argument for smaller government and close adherence to the original intent of the constitution. Would you say that judges have tremendous power?

Posted by: red on December 17, 2006 9:55 AM

Er, what, exactly, is PIRG?

Posted by: jamesg on December 17, 2006 10:09 AM

The country would be better if we could go back to the time when Andrew Carnegie ran the mills seven days a week with
two shifts and The Pullman Car Company required workers
to live in company housing and shop at the company store.
Don't you agree? WWDTD (what would Dagny Taggart do?

Posted by: Farris Williams on December 17, 2006 10:19 AM

I used to work for the Fla Student Assoc in 1988-89. Our office was next door to FPirg's office on Park Ave in Tallahassee,FL...the FPirg people used to laugh at how they got the FSU & and FAMU kids to canvass...how they used to raise money that they didn't have to account for...and then throw the biggesst parties...hhhmmmm...makes u wonder. That's when I began to leave the left.

Posted by: Rich V on December 17, 2006 10:52 AM

Your description of the excessive turn-over in poorly-paid personnel in pious ultraliberal organizations reminds me of another darling on the left: Michael Lerner and his Tikkun magazine. A relative of mine took a job there even after being warned about the unbelieveable amount of abuse the good rabbi bestowed on his employees. He turned out to be far worse than described; a very manevolent man.

Posted by: jay on December 17, 2006 11:21 AM

This actually dovetails well with something I read about a couple years back -- something to the effect that conservative groups had better relations with their younger recruits because they respected them more.

--|PW|--

Posted by: pennywit on December 17, 2006 11:22 AM

From leftie to libertarian ... with just a tad bit of extra investment of intellectual energy, you could have made it all the way to Conservative.

Too bad.

Posted by: paul a'barge on December 17, 2006 11:27 AM

We know Jesus shouldn't shop at Wal-Mart.

Would Jesus work for PIGs, err, make that PIRG?

Posted by: rXacr on December 17, 2006 11:36 AM

So Michael Sullivan,

When is Fidel going to abdicate power in favor of a democratically elected government?

Chile is the fastest growing economy in Latin America. Cubans should be so lucky.

Pinochet also privatized social security putting it on a sound financial basis. How is that coming along in North Korea?

Sometimes you do have to break a few eggs. The question is: will there be any omlets at the end or just egg shells?

Pinochet gets props because his rightist revolution actually delivered a better life for the people. The examples of South Korea and Taiwan are also illustrative. Both pretty much rightist dictatorships in the early days. Now economically prosperous democracies.

I can't think of any leftist governments that took power by force that have left the country economically better off and gave way eventually to self rule.

First "The Road to Serfdom" explains why leftys can't do economics. Since the return to self rule in all rightist or leftist revolutions or coups is predicated on economic improvement and only the right delivers on economics you know how it is going to wind up.

By their fruits....

BTW the study of economics and the aftermath of the Vietnam War turned me into a Libertarian (I was local party Scty/Treas for 3 years). 9/11 turned me into a Republican. I was a Communist in favor of the world wide revolution which would have made me a Trot. in the 60s.

You see the communistst/socialists had a wonderful marketing plan. "If you eliminate profit we will all be richer" they told me. It not only sounded good it made some logical sense. It doesn't work that way. Which I learned from reading economics. My work as an engineer which is a relentlessly economic oriented field also helped.

Pinochet killed 3,000 and made Chile richer. Castro has killed 10X as many and made Cuba poorer. In an imperfect world which would I back?

Hard question.

Posted by: M. Simon on December 17, 2006 12:01 PM

Of course Jesus would have shopped at Wallmart. With a lot of poor people to feed and cloth, he could feed and cloth more by shopping at Wallmart.

Despite his godlike powers he was dependent on some rich women for financial support. Even the rich have limited purses.

So Wallmart it is.

Posted by: M. Simon on December 17, 2006 12:14 PM

To be a conservative you have to believe in Republican Socialism (government control of personal behavior above limiting violence and fraud).

Sadly for the Conservatives I don't believe in Socialism of any kind.


Take drug prohibition:

Do Republicans support drug prohibition because it finances criminals or because it finances terrorists?

Republican Socialism. Price supports for criminals and terrorists.

Which was inspired by: Milton Friedman

Posted by: M. Simon on December 17, 2006 12:20 PM

Michaeel,

You do not understand the purpose of democracy. It is a safety valve.

Its purpose is to keep the people out of the way of the capitalists (prevent revolutions and civil wars) so the capitalists can make money in a stable environment.

It pretty much works. And since capitalists in an honest market (limited government, limits rent seeking) build up capital rather quickly, we all get richer over time.

As a person living close to the poverty level at this time, I live better than kings did 150 years ago. Running water, electricity, central air, telephone, cable (I have the equivalent of 2.5 T1 pipes into my home - woo hoo, for $28 a month including 12 TV channels), internet, a computer with more power than a Cray 1, and I could go on.

Capital trickles down. As the rich get richer, so do the poor. Just not as fast. Shut the engine down by penalizing the rich and the poor take it in the neck as well. Which is why socialism and other re-distributionist schemes hold back the advancement of the poor.

Even Marx knew that the fastest way to build up capital was to encourage the capitalists. A point the Marxist seldom make. Marx's mistake was to think that in his time the capital building phase was almost over.

Since we are still in the capital building phase we should give the capitalists as much free reign as possible. We will all get richer faster.

Posted by: M. Simon on December 17, 2006 12:43 PM

I guess I killed the thread.

Oh well.

Posted by: M. Simon on December 17, 2006 12:43 PM

Leftists are ridiculously illogical people.

I have noticed one very good rule of thumb. The LOUDER a leftist is when they spew rhetoric, the MORE hypocritical they are in their lives.

Think about it :

Ted Kennedy - Killed a woman, yet attacks Alito for 'mysogyny'.
Nancy Pelosi - rich through inherited money and marriage, somehow a champion of working-class people.
Jimmy Carter - Actually working towards the genocide of Jews.

The list is endless...

Posted by: Gordy on December 17, 2006 12:55 PM

Could PIRG want a high turnover to prevent infiltration by "corporate shills"? If they make things as hard as possible, the only people who persist will be the True Believers.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger on December 17, 2006 12:56 PM

The country would be better if we could go back to the time when Andrew Carnegie ran the mills seven days a week with
two shifts and The Pullman Car Company required workers
to live in company housing and shop at the company store.

It's hard to say how much improvement in job conditions was due to organized labor and how much was due to self interest on the part of industrialists who understood productivity. Sure, there were company towns and company stores in the late 19th century. Fayette, Michigan is now a state park but was once a thriving mill company town where they smelted ore into pig iron. Men would avg $14 a mo. hauling 100 lb bars of iron by hand and have to pay 50 cents a night to stay in the company boarding house.

But smart employers knew that exploiting workers didn't yield high productivity. The auto industry's historic labor battles were in the 1930s, with the historic sit down strike in Flint and the famous battle of the Rouge overpass. My great uncle, who lived with my wife and me, was part of the labor struggle here in Detroit and would tell us stories of having his kosher lunches thrown over the plant fence during sit down strikes at Dodge Main.

Wages and benefits, though, had started improving a generation earlier. One of Henry Ford's almost mythic acts was raising the daily pay rate to $5 a day in 1914. Most people think it was to create a bigger market for the Model T - which it did coincidentally by pushing wages up generally - but that was not Ford's reason. He had a turnover rate of close to 95% of new hires. Working in his plants was mindless, dirty and noisy. If your business model is productivity, high employee turnover won't work. Before raising wages in 1914, Ford had already started a company health plan and other benefits. He paid more money so he could keep employees.

So it's hard to say how much was do to enlightened management policies and how much was do to the labor movement.

That being said, the American labor movement is fundamentally different from labor movements elsewhere in that it is a capitalist labor movement, not socialist. Walter Reuther of the UAW hated communists as much as he hated Ford goons. Samuel Gompers said that the worst crime a company can do to an employee is be unprofitable.

With many employment situations, though, the only way that an individual employee can get economic leverage with an employer is to organize. Smart employers, though, shouldn't face the threat of union organization because they value their employees.

Posted by: Bozoer Rebbe on December 17, 2006 12:57 PM

"do women find comments about something "making them wet"

There is a male equivalent: "He had a hardon for..."

If the left had redeeming virtues, they'd call themselves "leftists" instead of hiding behind "progressive", "liberal" and other deliberately misleading labels. My favorite is the way they slap "Truth" all over their propaganda, as if no one had ever heard of "Pravda".

Posted by: Mister Snitch! on December 17, 2006 1:01 PM

"The country would be better if we could go back to the time when Andrew Carnegie ran the mills seven days a week with
two shifts and The Pullman Car Company required workers
to live in company housing and shop at the company store.
Don't you agree? WWDTD (what would Dagny Taggart do?"

You bet Farris. After all, there are only the two choices. Either abuse by the union or the employer, and those who complain about the abuse of the unions clearly want to turn back the clock to the times of the company store. Good call.

Posted by: buzz on December 17, 2006 1:16 PM

I think one reason leftists are especially prone to rapacious business tactics is that they don't quite get the idea of providing value for money, a profoundly capitalistic concept.

In dealing with a university administration well-known for (and proud of) its socialist commitment (and not coincidentally strapped for cash and always crying poor), I was actually shocked at just how nakedly grasping they could be when some cash was in prospect.

They seemed not to realize that by screwing, e.g., a research sponsoring company into the ground, they were guaranteeing that the relationship would be short-lived - because they didn't provide value for money.

They never grasped the concept that a good business deal benefits all parties to it.

Posted by: Occam's Beard on December 17, 2006 1:46 PM

What Dan said. Mass. PIRG is funded by tuition payments to the University of Massachusetts. They worked their $15 membership fee into the base tuition; it's not part of the "activities" fee or anything like that. You pay it by default, and you have to specifically tell the bursar every semester/year (don't remember) that you don't want to pay the MassPIRG fee. If you forget to opt out, or you don't think to question whether the MassPIRG line-item on your tuition is optional, then your tuition is $15 higher.

What a scam.

Posted by: jeremiah on December 17, 2006 2:00 PM

Jesus wouldn't shop at WalMart. He had multitudes to feed - he's shop at Sam's Club.

Posted by: svolich on December 17, 2006 2:09 PM

Farris is typical of lefties. They give you a false dichotomy, hoping you won't notice. I have been on both (all?) sides of the management/labor division, and, uniformly, the worst offenders are the union management and their goons.

I currently belong to a rag-tag quasi-academic union that is affiliated with the AFT (barf!). In our last negotiations, not only were they terrified by the management's chief bargainer, the traded away just about every possible gain for the ordinary member in return for: a) a health benefit package that really helped just over 3% at the expense of the other 97% of members (guess which percentage had union leadership positions?), and; b) special rules that by happenstance apply only to the union president and two of his coterie.

Gosh. Who would have thought. Oh, yeah. We pay the highest dues among the unions at our workplace, with about 80% of the total going, one way or another, to the state and national AFT affiliates. (Oh, and I shouldn't forget the HUGE hit we took when our first president pursued a lawsuit at our expense [well, the national and state kicked in some bucks] over her well-justified firing.)

It's not that I haven't seen bad management and administration and such. I most certainly have. It's just that the *FOUR* unions I have belonged to have uniformly been worse than ANY of the management that I've been part of or served under.

And, since I'm currently employed in an academic setting, the administrators are frequently former union members. What a disaster. And the posting above about how stupidly they pursue economic endeavors is true, too true.

Finally, although I'm not religious at all, I tend to remember what a Mennonite elder (who was only 25 or so) told me years ago. "The Bible says, 'Judge not, lest ye be judged.' So remember that most people have their own reasons for their actions and you can't be sure whether they're good or bad. But it also says, 'By the fruits of their labor shall ye know them' so it's not wrong to be a fruit inspector. Those whose 'labor' consistently produces bad fruit are to be corrected, avoided, or expelled as needs dictate."

Any serious 'fruit inspector' can tell a lot about PIRGs and lefties in general by looking at the fruit they produce. Take Castro versus Pinochet. It's not even wormy apples versus oranges. It's more like dried dog poop versus oranges.

And, finally, yes, yes I do know more than a few (almost all academics or their associated hangers-on) who *still* routinely excuse all from Lenin and Stalin to Castro, Chavez, Kim, and Mugabe. I have yet to discover a single 'lefty' thuggish dictator they are willing to directly condemn. Guess having trains run on time and bashing the US is much more important than the actual welfare of the people.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie on December 17, 2006 2:17 PM

Agreed, PIRG is just as bad as MADD or Falwell. Scammers, through and through.

Posted by: fishbane on December 17, 2006 2:45 PM

I can't think of any leftist governments that took power by force that have left the country economically better off and gave way eventually to self rule.

Poland a dozen or so of its neighbors are on the white courtesy phone for you.

And if you don't think they left the country economically better off, you should research what Poland was like in 1945. I'm not defending Communism, just pointing out that it's a strange criterion.

Posted by: Brittain33 on December 17, 2006 2:55 PM

Farris is typical of lefties. They give you a false dichotomy, hoping you won't notice.

Very few comments on this thread are winning any awards for mutual respect and fair representation of opposing views. It's kind of like a group cage match, and about as edifying.

Posted by: Brittain33 on December 17, 2006 2:56 PM

I had a similarly disillusioning experience with a disease-specific non-profit. If no one is getting care or research funding, if it's all "awareness raising," it's a scam.

Non-profits are always for-profits for the people working there, and they'll do anything they have to to keep the organization going.

Posted by: Holly on December 17, 2006 3:19 PM

Jamesg:

Public Interest Research Group.

My experience was with CalPIRG, a group listed as part of the expense paid for tuition. Sweet deal for them. Maybe I should form HarvardPIRG and get the UC to strongarm cash from unsuspecting students for me.

A rose by any other name...

Posted by: Harvard@Cal on December 17, 2006 3:42 PM

Eons ago, when I was an undergrad at Berkeley, our "fees" also included a "donation" to CalPIRG. Every semester it gave me no end of pleasure to opt out of it.

I wonder if they still do that? I will have to check with my son, in his last year there. I am sure that if they still scam Cal students with that "voluntary" chance to fund CalPIRG, my son definitely is also opting out. He comes from smart stock.

Posted by: Jenn on December 17, 2006 3:52 PM

Castro has killed 10X as many and made Cuba poorer.

If US conservatives believe that wealth is required for a country to transition away from dictatorial rule and that socialism couldn't acheive this then what's the logic behind boycotting Cuba?

Posted by: Ryan on December 17, 2006 5:07 PM

Soliciting door to door in Chester, PA? What was your first clue that there might be ethical issues involved with doing that? My God, I'm amazed that someone could bring themselves to extract a dime from the people who are struggling to eke out an existence in that town.

You are obviously ashamed, as you should be. But I have to ask how you could have brought yourself to do that in the first place. And did it ever occur to you to drive fifteen minutes over to the Main Line and hit up the thousands of limousine liberals desperate to display their moral vanity?

Jeez, I've done some bad things in my life, but I don't think I'd blog about them.

Posted by: Jake on December 17, 2006 5:21 PM

Michael Sullivan wrote, "I challenge the US for our mistakes and tyrannies, because we claim to be better, and we are supposed to be better."

That's a perfect reason for the left to be challenged. THEY claim to be better and THEY are supposed to be better.

"I expect more from the President of the United States."

Unless he's a Democrat and sexually harrasses a subordinate, I'd bet.

Brittain33 wrote, "Poland a dozen or so of its neighbors are on the white courtesy phone for you.

"And if you don't think they left the country economically better off, you should research what Poland was like in 1945. I'm not defending Communism, just pointing out that it's a strange criterion."

That's why they were so eager to get rid of Communism? Or were they just ungrateful? No, those white courtesy phone calls are for you. Your statement isn't just strange, it's insane.

Posted by: Jim C. on December 17, 2006 5:35 PM

red - And this result is more likely to come from the current flavor of liberalism (socialism) because they accept coercion as part of their political armementarium.

Out of liberals, libertarians, conservatives, socialists, communists and facists, conservatives are second only to totalitarian dictatorships in their propensity to use the millitary or CIA action to acheive their foreign policy goals. Whether such coercion is justified or for the greater good is another matter for debate. But from bombing abortion center clinics to the Ratzman shootings, conservatives have not shown a reluctance to use violence. Liberal vegetarians might believe that 'meat is murder' but you don't have them shooting the people at the slaughterhouse.

You provide an argument for smaller government

Yes, to a degree, I do. But not to such a degree that we undo reforms like labeling laws or various public disclosure laws.

and close adherence to the original intent of the constitution.

Does that mean I can own people again?

Would you say that judges have tremendous power?

There are supposed to be checks on a lone judge's power. These checks and balances work most of the time, provided that you can afford the court costs. Perhaps there are better ways to check a judge's power. But mandatory minimums (to use just one example) create as many problems as they solve.

Similarly, there are supposed to be checks and balances on a citizen's power, but a politically influential person who makes large campaign donations can get around this.

Posted by: Ryan on December 17, 2006 5:40 PM

That's why they were so eager to get rid of Communism?

Excuse me, but if Pinochet was so wonderful, why did the Chileans vote his ass out of office in favor of a democracy? You've completely lost the plot, as the Brits say. Your argument has no thread.

What we know is that dictatorships are nasty, nearly all countries enjoy at least some economic growth when coming off of a small base, and democracies are better in the long run for perpetuating economic growth at a more sophisticated level. You're trying to draw the Jeane Kirkpatrick distinction between recovering right-wing dictatorships and recovering Communist dictatorships, but she wrote that in the 1980s, and it's been amply debunked by the history of post-Communist Eastern Europe where countries have done as well as any of the former right-wing countries.

Posted by: Brittain33 on December 17, 2006 6:06 PM

Michael S. : " I don't go on about Castro, because I don't *expect* Castro to be anything other than a tin-pot dictator. I expect more from the President of the United States."

So when exactly do Castro et al get called on the carpet? Never? If we don't 'go on about Castro', how will that help bring about change? Is it too much to ask that you 'go on' about both the Prez *and* Castro?

Posted by: Les Nessman on December 17, 2006 6:38 PM

Brittain33 - Try comparing Poland under communism to Poland in 1938, before the Nazis and - oh yes - the Soviet Union invaded and destroyed the country, killing 20% of the population.

Or are you making the point that being ruled by communists alone is better than being occupied by both Nazis and communists during wartime? Because if that's what you're saying, you may have a point. May have a point.

Posted by: Pixy Misa on December 17, 2006 7:08 PM

it's been amply debunked by the history of post-Communist Eastern Europe where countries have done as well as any of the former right-wing countries.

This misstates the argument. "Dictatorships and Double Standards" argued that right-wing dictatorships did a better job economically during the dictatorship. In the case of Chile this is precisely what happened. Ditto South Korea, Singapore, and other right-wing success stories.

As you say, "everyone knows" that democracies outperform dictatorships. But right-wing dictatorships often dramatically outperform left-wing ones. This shouldn't be surprising, since most left-wing dictatorships are built on extreme versions of socialism that are unlikely to ever succeed economically.

I think that's an important point. Few right-wing ideologies are anti-growth or anti-profit, but many left-wing ones are (Marxism, socialism, environmentalism, etc.). Moreover, many right-wing dictators aren't terribly ideological at all. Thus, it's a lot easier for a right-wing dictatorship to have decent economic freedom.

Posted by: Dwight in IL on December 17, 2006 7:19 PM

"Liberal vegetarians might believe that 'meat is murder' but you don't have them shooting the people at the slaughterhouse."

I understand that Hitler was both a vegetarian and a socialist. You know the national socialist workers party who were otherwise known as the Nazis. Also an anti-vivasectionist. At least for animals.

"Graf Reventkow presents a number of examples of beastial vivisection crimes and affirms at the end, with mention of Adolph Hitler's sharp anti-vivisectionist positions, our demand that once and for all an end has to be brought to this animal exploitation."

I guess if killing animals counts as murder then those animals rights terrorists who set fire to a pet shop killing all the occupants count as mass murderers.

An exotic pet shop in Cambridge that peddles fish, snakes and lizards was burned out last night in a possible act of environmental terrorism, the Cambridge fire chief said.

"It appears as though it's an act of terrorism, of animal terrorism, but it's a little confusing; to harm animals is not something you'd think an animal rights group would do," said Chief Gerald R. Reardon.

Authorities' fears were stoked when they responded to the fire and discovered black graffiti painted on the brick and concrete building face that reads "No more exploitation of animals" in large capital letters. It was an apparent reference to the Boston Tropical Fish and Reptile store which operates there. Reardon said there are similar markings inside the pet shop.
Isn't it funny how the fire chief can't believe it's animal rights terrorists behind this despite the part in bold and with the example of all the destruction animal rights terrorist groups have done over the years. How's releasing the entire stock of a mink farm into the wild to starve to death any different, or worse yet a bunch of domesticated chickens. Yeah, like their going to make it on their own. :)

Then of course there is this:

Glynn Harding, 27, who terrorized people in various animal enterprises in Great Britain by mailing 12 explosive devices, was ordered detained indefinitely in a mental hospital.

Three of the devices caused injuries to people, including a woman who lost an eye and a young girl who barely avoided serious disfigurement. Harding planned to mail up to 100 such devices, and the nature of his crime led the sentencing judge to label his actions as "pure evil."

Of course none of this proves anything about vegetarians but you started with this baloney, this fallacious train of thought. One lone crazy fundamentalist abortion bomber does not an argument make. BTW, I'm an atheist with no fondness for fundamentalists.

Posted by: Brian Macker on December 17, 2006 7:44 PM

Speaking of PIRG university funding:

During my freshman year at Colorado State, there was a fairly significant controversy about changing the procedure for funding CoPirg when paying tuition. Whereas it had been the case that one could check a box to opt out of kicking in an extra dollar or two to give to copirg, it was proposed that instead the default be not giving the donation, but having the opportunity to opt in. Amazingly, the change was enacted, but it still boggles the mind that such a thing weould even be considered appropriate as part of the tuition-paying process for a university.

Posted by: alan on December 17, 2006 8:02 PM

Brittain33 -

Those "post-Communist" countries have done well because they are, well, post-communist. As in, not communist anymore. As in, living under a different type of government. That isn't communist.

Citing Poland is a particularly weak example of success "following" communism. The Solidarity movement and JPII's involvement didn't spring from communism but in complete opposition to it. Along with the systemic economic dysfunction, a particularly galling aspect of communism for the Poles was its atheism and religious suppression. Being able to worship freely is not something of great importance to many on the left ("who needs the fundies?") but seeing the massive crowds come out, despite the risk, when their own Cardinal Wojtyla, newly Pope, came to visit was an incredibly moving and remarkable thing. Communism doesn't just destroy the economy; it destroys the human spirit. You don't have to take my word for it - just ask any resident of the Eastern bloc who lived under the yoke and they'll tell you.

About non-profits - I received salary monies once as part of a pediatric AIDS initiative (who could say no to that?) but there was so little substance to what we did and so little accountabilty with the money that was spent that I eventually quit. Even the grant application had falsified info (it allocated funding to a person who actually worked in another department). The only valuable community awareness activity we did was to organize an AIDS panel to visit the local "health magnet" (minority pregnant teens) school to discuss AIDS with the girls. We had two young ladies with AIDS on the panel not much older than the girls we were working with and they definitely made an impact. Otherwise, the entire organization was pretty much the same sham described above by others.

Posted by: inmypajamas on December 17, 2006 8:08 PM

I was a conservative Republican legislator in (of all places) Massachusetts in the 1980's, with a MassPIRG rating of (I think) about 11% -- one lovely summer evening a scruffy hippie from Minnesota knocked on my door trying to get $5.00 out of me for tthe cause, which at the time had to do with the Big Bad Power Industry or something. He had no idea what he was talking about, but he sure was committed.

I told him to get the **** off my property.
He heh.

Posted by: wavemaker on December 17, 2006 8:13 PM

I was a conservative Republican legislator in (of all places) Massachusetts in the 1980's, with a MassPIRG rating of (I think) about 11% -- one lovely summer evening a scruffy hippie from Minnesota knocked on my door trying to get $5.00 out of me for tthe cause, which at the time had to do with the Big Bad Power Industry or something. He had no idea what he was talking about, but he sure was committed.

I told him to get the **** off my property.
He heh.

Posted by: wavemaker on December 17, 2006 8:13 PM

I was a conservative Republican legislator in (of all places) Massachusetts in the 1980's, with a MassPIRG rating of (I think) about 11% -- one lovely summer evening a scruffy hippie from Minnesota knocked on my door trying to get $5.00 out of me for tthe cause, which at the time had to do with the Big Bad Power Industry or something. He had no idea what he was talking about, but he sure was committed.

I told him to get the **** off my property.
He heh.

Posted by: wavemaker on December 17, 2006 8:13 PM

I was a conservative Republican legislator in (of all places) Massachusetts in the 1980's, with a MassPIRG rating of (I think) about 11% -- one lovely summer evening a scruffy hippie from Minnesota knocked on my door trying to get $5.00 out of me for tthe cause, which at the time had to do with the Big Bad Power Industry or something. He had no idea what he was talking about, but he sure was committed.

I told him to get the **** off my property.
He heh.

Posted by: wavemaker on December 17, 2006 8:13 PM

I was a conservative Republican legislator in (of all places) Massachusetts in the 1980's, with a MassPIRG rating of (I think) about 11% -- one lovely summer evening a scruffy hippie from Minnesota knocked on my door trying to get $5.00 out of me for tthe cause, which at the time had to do with the Big Bad Power Industry or something. He had no idea what he was talking about, but he sure was committed.

I told him to get the **** off my property.
He heh.

Posted by: wavemaker on December 17, 2006 8:13 PM

I was a conservative Republican legislator in (of all places) Massachusetts in the 1980's, with a MassPIRG rating of (I think) about 11% -- one lovely summer evening a scruffy hippie from Minnesota knocked on my door trying to get $5.00 out of me for tthe cause, which at the time had to do with the Big Bad Power Industry or something. He had no idea what he was talking about, but he sure was committed.

I told him to get the **** off my property.
He heh.

Posted by: wavemaker on December 17, 2006 8:13 PM

I was a conservative Republican legislator in (of all places) Massachusetts in the 1980's, with a MassPIRG rating of (I think) about 11% -- one lovely summer evening a scruffy hippie from Minnesota knocked on my door trying to get $5.00 out of me for tthe cause, which at the time had to do with the Big Bad Power Industry or something. He had no idea what he was talking about, but he sure was committed.

I told him to get the **** off my property.
He heh.

Posted by: wavemaker on December 17, 2006 8:13 PM

I was a conservative Republican legislator in (of all places) Massachusetts in the 1980's, with a MassPIRG rating of (I think) about 11% -- one lovely summer evening a scruffy hippie from Minnesota knocked on my door trying to get $5.00 out of me for tthe cause, which at the time had to do with the Big Bad Power Industry or something. He had no idea what he was talking about, but he sure was committed.

I told him to get the **** off my property.
He heh.

Posted by: wavemaker on December 17, 2006 8:13 PM

I was a conservative Republican legislator in (of all places) Massachusetts in the 1980's, with a MassPIRG rating of (I think) about 11% -- one lovely summer evening a scruffy hippie from Minnesota knocked on my door trying to get $5.00 out of me for tthe cause, which at the time had to do with the Big Bad Power Industry or something. He had no idea what he was talking about, but he sure was committed.

I told him to get the **** off my property.
He heh.

Posted by: wavemaker on December 17, 2006 8:13 PM

I was a conservative Republican legislator in (of all places) Massachusetts in the 1980's, with a MassPIRG rating of (I think) about 11% -- one lovely summer evening a scruffy hippie from Minnesota knocked on my door trying to get $5.00 out of me for tthe cause, which at the time had to do with the Big Bad Power Industry or something. He had no idea what he was talking about, but he sure was committed.

I told him to get the **** off my property.
He heh.

Posted by: wavemaker on December 17, 2006 8:13 PM

Jake, on the moral front, the only excuse is that I thought I was doing something good for the environment. As I've said above, it's not avery good excuse.

But as a practical matter, the canvass is structured so that the prime turf is done by the end of July, leaving the slim pickings for last--the better to force canvassers unable to make quota to leave before collecting their balloon payments. SO as a practical matter, I couldn't drive over to the main line because a) I didn't have a car b) the field manager checked on me halfway through my evening canvass c) that turf had already been canvassed and d) I had to turn in names and addresses of where I got the money, which needed to be on the turf I was supposed to be canvassing.

Posted by: Jane Galt on December 17, 2006 8:29 PM

Somebody asked what a PIRG was. Here is my answer:

PIRG = Public Interest Research Group. Founded by, or inspired by (take your pick) Ralph Nader the various groups founded by or affiliated with him to promote progressive (i.e. liberal) causes, mostly by door-to-door fund raising. I believe they were started in the late 70s. They have chapters on many college campuses throughout the country. They are funded by student fees.

And, as the MyDD series details, PIRGs treat their employees like shit and any attempt to unionize is forcibly stopped, which is odd because in pretty all other cases, Nader is a big, gung-ho union guy. At any rate, abuse of low-level staff and refusal to let them unionize is pretty much SOP for Naderite organizations, although perhaps the MyDD series didn't tell you that.

Posted by: OregonMuse on December 17, 2006 9:10 PM

Pixy, and other responders to my post--

My specific comments were in response to this comment:

I can't think of any leftist governments that took power by force that have left the country economically better off and gave way eventually to self rule.

I was solely responding to that point, because it's come up a lot recently with the deaths of Jeane Kirkpatrick and Augusto Pinochet within a few weeks of each other. The statement as posted is wrong, because Communist states in Eastern Europe, as lousy and wasteful and corrupt as they are, meet those criteria. But my point wasn't that Polish Communism was GOOD, it's that either OP's point was wrong or his criteria were not useful.

Posted by: Brittain33 on December 17, 2006 9:11 PM

I have never met more heartless people than the squishy liberals who were into the Dead ethos of great headwear and fashionably neckwear.

they bitch about captialism but practice it coldly, if they don't their parents will be very disappointed.

God love them, keeps the country going.

Posted by: benrand on December 17, 2006 9:13 PM

Thirty years ago I had a canvassing job for the libertarians. I quit after about a week because it was evident to me that they were incredibly incompetent. They tried not to pay me and shorted me on the pay.
I can well believe your experience.

Posted by: wkwillis on December 17, 2006 9:25 PM

Brittain33,

I think OP's point was that the economic improvement was during Pinochet's rule. That is after he took over things improved economically and then eventually it changed to a democracy. Don't know if that's true but that was the point.

Did the communist takeover of Poland make it better off economically under communist rule? If not then your counterpoint doesn't work.

Posted by: Brian Macker on December 17, 2006 9:34 PM

Hmm... wrote a response to one of the commenters about vegetarian terrorists. Had links to news stories and everything. When posted it said that it was held for moderation. Doesn't seem to have popped up.

Oh well. There have been vegetarian terrorists who have bombed and maimed humans, burned animals to death, and released them into the wild to starve to death. Plus Hitler was both a vegetarian and a socialist.

Just a counterpoint to a ridiculous post that acts like only fundamentalist Christians are violent.

Posted by: Brian Macker on December 17, 2006 9:39 PM

"My understanding is that at least a portion of those liberals who desire "equal outcomes" view unequal outcomes as prima facie evidence of unequal opportunity."

This kind of drivel is usually put forth by weak intellects or, more often, those wishing to persuade (as in lead) weak intellects. Liberty and equality of outcome are mutually exclusive. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if all are free to pursue their own vision many will choose different paths and will value different outcomes.

Posted by: Will on December 17, 2006 11:22 PM

(now what happened there -- sorry people.)

Posted by: wavemaker on December 18, 2006 5:55 AM

This reminds me of a post from James Lileks a couple of years ago.

The Parable of The Stairs (scroll to the end)

http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/04/0604/062804.html

Posted by: Rich on December 18, 2006 11:59 AM

Brian Macker - First, my sympathies for your eaten post. It's happened to me before too.

But did you even read my post? I specifically said that conservatives are less violent than totalitarian dictatorships. Socialsm, for the past 50 years or so, has refered to democratic socialism. Furthermore, Hitler was not a vegetarian .

The original post, which I was responding to, read; And this result is more likely to come from the current flavor of liberalism (socialism) because they accept coercion as part of their political armementarium.

Implying (I assume) that liberals use violence and conservatives don't. I'm not saying that socialists are perfect human beings. I'm not even arguing that they're good or helpful. I'm saying that violence is not exclusively their domain, and I highlighted some conditions under which conservatives have been violent.

Posted by: Ryan on December 18, 2006 1:38 PM

The site ate my link. Here's the article discussing how the "Hitler was a vegetarian" line is a Goebbels-inspired myth. http://www.all-creatures.org/mfz/myths-hitler-rb.html

Posted by: Ryan on December 18, 2006 2:15 PM

Will - I agree. But It's still worth asking what a good objective test for discrimination is, because sometimes it is a problem and difficult to verify if so. A better test than simple outcomes and applicable to a particular institution (though not society in general) is if you can quantify and graph some job-related ability you get the poorer performing tail cut off of a group that's discriminated against. The reason for this is that, when discrimination exists, it affects poor performers more dramatically. The result is that only above-average performers in the discriminated-against group manage to succeed.

There's a name for this, but I've forgotten what it is. Does anyone else know?

Posted by: Will on December 18, 2006 2:29 PM

These are the same people who tell us, despite all history, that it's private corporations that are the ultimate evil.

Remind me again, why is the Left still taken seriously?

Posted by: seerak on December 18, 2006 5:52 PM

Well, if anyone really wants to know the rating of a charity, look for CFC-- the Combined Federal Campaign, which Federal employees use each year.

If a charity isn't in there, it probably doesn't beat the 25% not-to-target raiting. (those with it above are still listed, but are red-flagged)

Posted by: Foxfier on December 19, 2006 12:28 AM

All right, I'm calling shenanigans on whoever the previous commenter is who claimed he once had a canvassing job for "the libertarians." Since when do the libertarians canvass? They're such a contentious bunch, you can put three of them together and they won't be even able to decide what pizza place to eat lunch at without getting into a table-pounding argument, let alone organize something as structured as a political outreach program.

Posted by: OregonMuse on December 19, 2006 1:36 PM

apologies, the previous comment by "will" to will was from me. I don't know how the name got screwed up.

Posted by: Ryan on December 19, 2006 1:45 PM

When is Fidel going to abdicate power in favor of a democratically elected government?

Chile is the fastest growing economy in Latin America. Cubans should be so lucky.

Pinochet also privatized social security putting it on a sound financial basis. How is that coming along in North Korea?

This is exactly what I'm talking about. Why is it some kind of virtue to be "not as bad as Castro or Kim"?

The existence of Stalin and Hitler doesn't make Castro OK, why does Castro make Pinochet OK?

Even if you consider him a lesser evil compared to Allende (which is far from clear given that we don't know what Allende would have done long-term), that *might* be used to justify the overthrow (but overthrowing a democratically elected government must clear a much bigger moral hurdle than overthrowing some other dictator), but not all of the oppression that followed.

This "have to break a few eggs to make an omelet" overly simplistic utilitarianism is exactly the kind of thinking that Lenin used.

I would argue that Chile's economic results have much more to do with our willingness to advise and trade with Chile, despite Pinochet than with Pinochet's policies (there was not a signficant amount of economic freedom). If we had done the same with Cuba, there may have been a different result there. Look at the communist countries with whom we opened trade relations as the Cold War headed toward detente and then denouement in the 70s and 80s. Like Chile, they are much richer and much freer today, even though they are still nominally communist.

I think Chile is much stronger evidence for the case of engagement vs. boycott with authoritarian/immoral regimes than for the idea that right-wing dictators are inherently more benign than left-wing dictators.

Posted by: Michael Sullivan on December 19, 2006 1:55 PM

Michael Sullivan wrote, "I challenge the US for our mistakes and tyrannies, because we claim to be better, and we are supposed to be better."

That's a perfect reason for the left to be challenged. THEY claim to be better and THEY are supposed to be better.

If a Democrat gets elected and pulls stunts on the order of the Bush White House, you bet I'd challenge them. In fact, I'd instantly switch allegiances to a republican party that had cleaned house a bit, and probably emigrate otherwise.

Note: I don't notice Democrats being any more holier-than-thou than Republicans.

"I expect more from the President of the United States."

Unless he's a Democrat and sexually harrasses a subordinate, I'd bet.

And you would bet that because?

I think that's a far less serious offense against the *public* than shipping 100,000 people and $500billion off to fight a war that would be a dubious proposition even if we'd prosecuted it perfectly, while in reality we have accomplished nothing, and harmed much, including 2,500 american lives lost.

I also don't believe sexual harassment is an offense on the order of detention without trial. We fine or fire sexual harrassers, while kidnappers and torturers tend to get locked up for a long time (or in GWB's Texas: executed).

But I sure wasn't happy about it. I thought it was sleazy, and a black mark on Clinton. I don't believe I've ever suggested otherwise.

That said, I don't think impeachment was warranted. It also didn't have any significant affect on our freedom. The Clinton administration's push for freer trade and continued and ever more zealous prosecution of the WoSD had much bigger (positive and negative respectively) affects on freedom in the US than any Cigar trick he pulled with Monica.

Posted by: Michael Sullivan on December 19, 2006 2:34 PM

Jane, one small point, could you point out early in the article who PIRG actually are, their name and goal; the post was slightly hard to follow.

Other than that, a great read. There's just nothing worse than liberal organizations who feed wealthy elites.

Posted by: Dave on December 19, 2006 9:36 PM

M Simon (and Americans in general), just ONCE can you talk about what Cuba was like before Castro, a violent US run dictatorship, with a far far higher death rate than anything under Castro. Just once, can you mention this.

Posted by: Commenter on December 19, 2006 10:46 PM

All of this "at least he was better than Castro" is giving me deja vu for 2004's "at least Abu Ghraib is better than Saddam Hussein, look, we just painted a school!"

Posted by: Brittain33 on December 20, 2006 9:12 AM

I agree that being "better than Castro" (or Saddam) isn't much of a compliment.

Perhaps if there were fewer left-wing Americans and Europeans praising Castro's health care system while frothing insanely about Pinochet and Donald Rumsfeld, it would be unnecessary to make the point. Perhaps if Ted Kennedy hadn't said "Saddam's torture chambers are open again under US management," it would be unnecessary to make the point. Maybe if Hollywood didn't make fawning movies about the murderer Che (and idiot college students didn't proudly wear his image), it would be unnecessary to make the point.

But as it stands, there are many people who believe--or at least say they believe--that Pinochet and naked pyramids and the Military Commissions Act are worse than Castro and Saddam. Correcting them is at least somewhat necessary, is it not?

Posted by: Rob Lyman on December 20, 2006 9:49 AM

My goodness. Lots of irrational hatred in this thread.

I believe it was "Gordy" who tells us Jimmy Carter isn't working toward eradication of hunger and disease in Africa but actually toward "genocide," simply because he disagrees with many Americans on the Israel question.

Wow. Any of you folks considering therapy? If you're worried about dipping into state resources, you could always pay for it yourselves.

There are good leftists, misguided leftists and bad leftists. Same on the right. Same among libertarians, though too many of them are unable to overcome their smug attitude, derived from their casual dismissal of all idealists as stupid or deranged.

I think I'll stick to reading Reason for my libertarian viewpoints.

Posted by: Phew on December 20, 2006 9:58 AM
M Simon (and Americans in general), just ONCE can you talk about what Cuba was like before Castro, a violent US run dictatorship, with a far far higher death rate than anything under Castro. Just once, can you mention this.

No, we can't. And the reason we can't is that it obviously isn't true. Rather, it's just left wing propaganda which purpose is to divert the subject away from Castro's bloodthirsty and monomaniacal reputation.

Posted by: OregonMuse on December 20, 2006 1:51 PM

I could do without some of the crazed kill-all-liberals stuff in the comments, but my experience with CalPIRG was much the same as Jane's, which we've both remarked on before. I don't so much come away from it thinking that liberals per se are objectionable. I did come away from it with a major new skepticism about organizations and institutions in general, though. Certainly some folks I've known over the years didn't really want to hear the bad news about PIRGs (or similar groups) and that's worth noting, that kind of starry-eyed refusal to deal with the world as it is. Activists on the right have plenty of Kool-Aid at their own stations to drink, especially these days.

Posted by: Timothy Burke on December 20, 2006 9:37 PM

Timothy -- Now THAT'S a reasonable response. Sincere thanks.

Basically, no matter what you believe, you're going to share your viewpoint with some obnoxious people and groups. Even if you choose not to decide, as the Rush song goes, you've made a choice -- and you'll find some reprehensible people in the same camp. Until we can all afford our own little islands and cut off all human contact, there's no getting around it.

Posted by: Phew on December 21, 2006 7:59 AM

Try AMWAY for some truly creepy sleeze. It makes these guys look like pikers.

Recently, one of the billionares from AMWAY ran as the republican candidate for gov. in Michigan.

Posted by: mickslam on December 21, 2006 12:20 PM

Like Michael Sullivan, I worked for OPIC for two weeks (this was the early 1980s, in Akron). I didn't last long enough to deal with anything surrounding balloon payments, if there were any. I found the whole thing faintly cultlike. I was told over and over that "a lot of our people come on board full time and don't go back to school in the fall." The management also pushed real hard to get people to go to some weekend workshop in Dayton or someplace, where I imagine they could keep you up all night and not feed you while singing the song of the revolution:

Rebels are we
Born to be free
Just like the fish in the sea!

I was a leftist back then (even joined the Progressive Students Alliance and the Democratic Socialists of America), but it didn't really take. By 1984 I was campaigning for John Glenn in the primaries, and nowadays I am a fusionist in the mold of Lord Acton or Frank Meyer, holding my nose and voting mostly Republican. Mostly. I voted for Marc Dann for Ohio attorney general because he was better on gunowners' rights than Betty Montgomery, the Republican incumbent.

Posted by: Ken on December 21, 2006 12:25 PM

"Maybe if Hollywood didn't make fawning movies about the murderer Che (and idiot college students didn't proudly wear his image), it would be unnecessary to make the point."

Hey, I want a Che T-shirt - with the caption, "Communists murdered 150 million and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."

There's a movie?

Posted by: markm on December 21, 2006 4:40 PM

Markm: The Motorcycle Diaries

Posted by: Rob Lyman on December 21, 2006 6:20 PM

Um, Oregon Muse, so you are saying the Batista government, which predated Castro, was democratic and supported human rights ? Have you actually any knowledge of Cuban history? Do you know what sort of government Cuba used to have?
The Batista government was one of the most violent abusers of human rights in the western hemisphere. Cubans had absolutely no human rights then and the US couldn't care a fig (and in fact supported Batista).
Please prove me wrong.

Posted by: Commenter on December 22, 2006 11:15 PM

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