Jeb Kinnison on Life and Love

Welcome to my blog. In between promos for my books, I write on topics from the news and cover the research reports on relationship, diet and health issues, as well as whatever I think is interesting and likely to be new to my readers. I respond to all reasonable comments and invite you to add your email to the mailing list or add the RSS feed to your reader so you’ll see new posts.

I try to respond to comments, but there are too many on some of the popular pages and its slows page loading, so I’d recommend you comment over at the forum: Forum Link — http://jebkinnison.boards.net/ — where there are other knowledgeable people who can answer questions.

I’ve started a new blog about my science fiction books and related topics, so please visit SubstrateWars.com for more.

Recommended: Kinivo Bluetooth Headphones

Kinovo Bluetooth headphones

Kinovo Bluetooth headphones

Kinovo Bluetooth headphones - folded

Kinovo Bluetooth headphones – folded

I Occasionally recommend a product I have used and liked with links to the Amazon page — which gives my readers a chance to support this micro-enterprise by buying through it, since Amazon returns a small fee when you do. That doesn’t affect the price you pay, and since I’m a cost-conscious shopper, I recommend mostly cost-effective items.

Kinivo BTH240 Bluetooth Stereo Headphone – Supports Wireless Music Streaming and Hands-Free calling (Black) [Update July 2016] The successor to the headphones I previously recommended for workouts. Great low-cost (c. $25) Bluetooth headphones for exercise, making it easy to use your phone for cordless music while exercising. Good sound, long life battery (I only have to charge mine once a month!), sturdy yet compact when folded, works for phone calls using iPhone or similar.

After my Bose headphones were stolen at the gym, I looked around for a more disposable pair and found the predecessor of this current offering. Good enough fidelity for exercising, and as it turns out they lasted for five years until recently when the left channel wire broke and the ear padding started to erode. The new models are improved but very similar in size and feel, so after a few days of evaluation, I can recommend them.

 

 

Sisters of Perpetual Grievance: Gender Pay Gap

Pay Gap - Whitehouse.gov

Pay Gap – Whitehouse.gov

The Party of Government continually promises to fix problems that don’t exist to portray themselves as warriors for social justice. One of the most mainstream of these myths is the gender pay gap, which aggregates pay for all full-time workers to show women making about 78% of what men earn and implies that women are being paid less for the same jobs throughout the economy. Millions of diverse types of worker and employment are lumped together to come up with a simple number that is assumed to be the result of systemic discrimination.

No matter how many times this is debunked, government and partisan propaganda repeats the lie to justify more affirmative action and labor laws to raise women’s pay and reduce job requirements. When it’s pointed out the discrepancy comes largely from voluntary choices made by women — to take off years for childrearing, to work in clean and safe environments, to work with people rather than machines and physical tasks — labor partisans claim that there must be systematic discrimination holding down wages in female-dominated professions like childcare.

Ask anyone who manages people in a large corporation, and you’ll discover that whatever minor pay discrepancies exist, corporate compensation schemes only allow limited differences. Men and women at a single company with the same jobs and performance are paid pretty much the same, with the minor differences related to preferences — men push harder for higher pay (and longer hours), while women on average value social relationships and shorter, more flexible hours. Some activists seem to imply that those who work too hard are implicitly making worklife too competitive for women, and that all workers should be made to work less so that those with childcare and family responsibilities can be paid the same.

A free market in labor will always have discrepancies, with competition for and relative scarcity of experienced and driven workers in certain demanding fields winning them higher compensation than those in low-skilled, pleasant jobs. It happens that more men end up in the dirty, difficult, demanding fields and sacrifice personal lives and family to outshine competitors; changing that would mean changing culture and human nature, forcing equality of outcome on a complex system that has rewards and sacrifices more important than mere financial compensation.

The pre-feminist world, say prior to 1960, tended to block women who wished to succeed in professional fields. It’s good that this has changed — more women and more men who wanted to take roles not conforming to rigid gender stereotypes have been able to do so, and net welfare has increased as a result. Yet politicians seek to raise wishful thinking about “having it all” as a woman to a public policy goal — that labor regulation should force employers to hire set ratios of women and minorities regardless of fit and productivity, and pay the mother who works 30 hours a week the same as the driven young father who wants to rise to the top by working 60-hour weeks. This is part of the recipe for Euro-stagnation that is gradually damaging US growth, and forcing HR departments to act as the social engineering arms of the Federal EEOC and Dept. of Labor.

The EEOC intends to muscle private companies to comply, starting with their Jan. 29, 2016 announcement[1] that all companies with more than 100 employees would be required to report compensation broken down by race, gender, and ethnicity:

“Too often, pay discrimination goes undetected because of a lack of accurate information about what people are paid,” said Jenny Yang, the chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which will publish the proposed regulation jointly with the Department of Labor. “We will be using the information that we’re collecting as one piece of information that can inform our investigations.”

…“Bridging the stubborn pay gap between men and women in the work force has proven to be very challenging,” said Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, noting that the median wage for women amounts to 79 percent of that for men. “We have seen progress, but it isn’t enough.”

And it will never be enough, since the Party of Government actually doesn’t want their poll-tested issues to ever go away. While discrimination on a small scale still happens — individual managers and some small backwater companies still discriminate — on the whole women are given a fair shake and accommodated in today’s corporate world. Pretending that millions of woman can get big raises for their current jobs by voting in Party of Government politicians is too valuable to give up as an election issue. The problem must be kept alive forever, even when all of its real aspects have been dealt with as much as a free market in labor — and an efficient economy with freedom of choice for companies and workers — allows.

Ashe Schow, a sharp feminist writer who doesn’t buy the party line, says:

I’ve written extensively on how the gender wage gap would be more accurately referred to as the “gender earnings gap,” because the gap is due mostly to choices women make and not discrimination.

But now you don’t have to take my word for it, you can listen to Claudia Goldin, an economics professor at Harvard University. Goldin spoke to Stephen Dubner, the journalist behind the popular podcast “Freakanomics,” in a segment about what really causes the gap.
As one can imagine, Goldin comes to the same conclusion that I and many others have: That the gap is due mostly to choices men and women make in their careers and not discrimination.

“Does that mean that women are receiving lower pay for equal work?” Goldin asked after listening to clips of President Obama and comedienne Sarah Silverman claim that women earn 77 cents to the dollar that men earn. “That is possibly the case in certain places, but by and large it’s not that, it’s something else.”

That “something else,” is choice — in the careers that women take, the hours they work and the time off they take. Dubner asked her about evidence that discrimination plays a role in the gap, to which Goldin responded that such a “smoking gun” no longer exists.[2]

Walter Olson of Overlawyered points out how the EEOC’s collection of data might benefit law firms who can use it to back up lawsuits, with the inevitable costly settlements enriching the law firms and further reducing corporate freedom to work with individual employees to tailor working conditions, hours, and compensation:

Aside from driving a high volume of litigation by the EEOC itself, the scheme will also greatly benefit private lawyers who sue employers, including class action lawyers. An employer might then weather the resulting litigation siege by showing that its numbers were good enough, or not. Would today’s Labor Department and EEOC policies look much different if the Obama administration frankly acknowledged that it was devising them with an eye toward maximum liability and payouts?[3]

A study[4] of recent graduates in STEM fields demonstrated how disparate pay could quickly be generated by different preferences in these supposedly logical fields:

One year after they graduate, women with Ph.D.s in science and engineering fields earn 31 percent less than do men, according to a new study using previously unavailable data.

The pay gap dropped to 11 percent when researchers took into account that women tended to graduate with degrees in fields that generally pay less than fields in which men got their degrees.

The rest of the pay gap disappeared when the researchers controlled for whether women were married and had children.

“There’s a dramatic difference in how much early career men and women in the sciences are paid,” said Bruce Weinberg, co-author of the study and professor of economics at The Ohio State University. “We can get a sense of some of the reasons behind the pay gap, but our study can’t speak to whether any of the gap is due to discrimination. Our results do suggest some lack of family-friendliness for women in these careers.”

“Family-friendly” means less focused, less demanding work. In science and engineering, focus is critical — a worker who is obsessed by the work and spends night and day thinking about a problem undistracted by children and social responsibilities is vastly more likely to achieve a breakthrough or a rigorous, clean, innovative design before the competition. Multitasking and the interruption of concentration by family schedules and set break times reduces productivity, especially in fields like programming where long and intense focus is required for the best work product. Not all jobs in these fields require this obsessive focus and many peripheral and support jobs can allow time for family life and other interests, but these jobs tend to pay less as well. To demand to be paid the same amount for them is to cheat the hard worker who is motivated to temporarily sacrifice much of the enjoyment of a well-rounded life for the sake of the task and who may be doing so to build the record of outstanding performance needed to build the base of a long career. And it should surprise no one that far fewer women are interested in that kind of unbalanced, unsocial, driven existence, even for short periods. The report goes on to say:

The importance of helpful family policies is supported by the fact that single and childless women tended to have less of a pay gap than those who were married and those who had children. About equal percentages of men and women were married or partnered. And more men than women in the study (24 versus 19 percent) had children. But it was the married women with children who saw the lower pay.

“Our results show a larger child-gap in salary among women Ph.D.s than among men,” Weinberg said.

“We can’t tell from our data what’s going on there. There’s probably a combination of factors. Some women may consciously choose to be primary caregivers and pull back from work. But there may also be some employers putting women on a ‘mommy track’ where they get paid less.”

The researchers had data, not previously available to scientists, on 1,237 students who received Ph.D.s from four U.S. universities from 2007 to 2010 and were supported on research projects while in school.

This data included federal funding support the Ph.D. graduates received as students, the dissertations they wrote (this told researchers what scientific field they studied) and U.S. Census data on where they worked and how much they earned one year after graduation, as well as their marital and childbearing status. Names and identifying characteristics were stripped from the data before the scientists had access to it.

Results showed clear differences in what men and women studied, with women clustered in the lower-paying fields. Overall, 59 percent of women completed dissertations in biology, chemistry and health, compared to only 27 percent of men.

Meanwhile, men were more than twice as likely to complete dissertations in more financially lucrative fields like engineering (45 versus 21 percent), and were 1.5 times more likely to study computer science, math or physics (28 versus 19 percent).

….Once they graduate, the differences between men and women with Ph.D.s continue. While industry tends to pay the largest salaries, women are more likely than men to work in government and academic settings. In fact, women in the study were 13 percentage points less likely than men to work outside of academia and government.

Women tend to choose more sociable, more supportive work environments, in fields that pay somewhat less. It is likely this is in part not only their conscious preference, but a kind of luxury afforded by the remnants of traditional gender roles — while free not to follow those roles, most men and women still have them embedded in their plans and goals, and the goal of the family with a male primary earner and female caretaker and secondary earner is now the most common. In that context, a woman’s choice of lower compensation jobs and fields makes perfect sense as part of her strategy.



[1] “Obama Moves to Expand Rules Aimed at Closing Gender Pay Gap,” By Julie Hirshfeld Davis, Jan. 29, 2016 New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/29/us/politics/obama-moves-to-expand-rules-aimed-at-closing-gender-pay-gap.html
[2] “Harvard prof. takes down gender wage gap myth,” by Ashe Schow, 1/13/16 Washington Examiner. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/harvard-prof.-takes-down-gender-wage-gap-myth/article/2580405
[3] “EEOC pay reporting: the better to sue you with, my dear,” by Walter Olson, 2/1/2016 Overlawyered. http://overlawyered.com/2016/02/eeoc-employers-must-report-pay-numbers-to-us/
[4] “Young women in STEM fields earn up to one-third less than men: Marriage, kids and scientific fields chosen explain gap, study finds,”
by Jeff Grabmeier, May 10, 2016, Ohio State University News.
https://news.osu.edu/news/2016/05/10/stem-gap/

More reading on other topics:

Death by HR: Good-Enough Cogs vs Best Employees
Death by HR: EEOC Incompetence and the Coming Idiocracy
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

Death by HR: Good-Enough Cogs vs Best Employees

College Costs Up, Salaries Flat

College Costs Up, Salaries Flat

Remember the bucket brigade model of teamwork? It demonstrated that giving a manager the freedom to pick and choose who would be on a team and what they would be paid allowed even those weak in some areas to be employed to complement the strengths of other team members. Taking away that freedom to choose — by imposing minimum wages or labor regulations — resulted in some people being unemployed who might otherwise have done well and gained skills over time.

The cog model of labor, as employed by unionists and government labor laws, sees jobs as slots to be filled by anyone who is “good enough” — who can function at some standardized level in the position. No worker is supposed to do much more than the standard amount of work, and hours are to be regulated by law to prevent abuse of workers by rapacious business owners. Much of the discussion of affirmative action (AA) and diversity assumes this — when there are many candidates to choose from, one can simply declare a minimum competence requirement, then choose the candidates that further diversity goals from among that pool. This will typically not be the best candidates for the particular position and team environment, but team managers are not given a choice.

Signifiers of “good enough” that are seen as objective — like high school and college degrees, grades, and test scores — are often used to screen out many applicants for entry-level jobs before any consideration of their complete records. But all of these quality signifiers tend to screen out more minority applicants, and so are inevitably attacked as having disparate impacts. The EEOC, for example, recently issued a letter stating that requiring a high-school diploma for a position might be inherently discriminatory under the Americans with Disabilities Act.[1] Standardized tests have been legally attacked and removed as requirements as well. The “Ban the Box” campaign[2] is an effort to prohibit employers from inquiring about criminal histories, since some minorities are much more likely to have been convicted of a crime. The reductio ad absurdum where people convicted of sex crimes against children cannot be disqualified from jobs in child care is not far away; the unionist / government answer is that such people must be hired, paid, and promoted, but can be told to report to a room to serve their work days, since as with the bad teachers paid to sit in NYC’s Rubber Room,[3] it’s not that important that they actually be useful as long as equality is preserved — the task is not to produce, but to harvest the proceeds of political influence for clients of the political machine.

There is an argument for prohibiting employers from asking about college degrees for many positions — since minority applicants from failed urban schools fail to graduate, or if they do tend to drop out of higher education before they obtain a degree, using a college degree as a general requirement for jobs where the extra education is not required to do the job is discriminatory. The requirement certifies mostly that the applicant can deal with arbitrary reward systems and complicated schedules of attendance with only long-term rewards, which bars most raised with the underclass cultures who have had little opportunity to learn self-discipline or other bourgeois values. Standards of learning for obtaining a soft-studies degree like psychology or political science from a low-end college are not much more rigorous than for high school, with many graduates not much more literate and knowledgeable after four years of “education.” Anyone who can navigate the bureaucracy and attend class is likely to be awarded a degree.

Scott Alexander in his Slate Star Codex piece “Against Tulip Subsidies”[4] wrote about a kingdom where marriage proposals customarily required a tulip, and what happened when tulips became expensive in a speculative market bubble (as they actually did in Holland around 1637)[5] :

Suitors wishing to give a token of their love find themselves having to invest their entire life savings – with no guarantee that the woman will even say yes! Soon, some of the poorest people are locked out of marriage and family-raising entirely.

Some of the members of Parliament are outraged. Marriage is, they say, a human right, and to see it forcibly denied the poor by foreign speculators is nothing less than an abomination. They demand that the King provide every man enough money to guarantee he can buy a tulip. Some objections are raised: won’t it deplete the Treasury? Are we obligated to buy everyone a beautiful flawless bulb, or just the sickliest, grungiest plant that will technically satisfy the requirements of the ritual? If some man continuously proposes to women who reject him, are we obligated to pay for a new bulb each time, thus subsidizing his stupidity?

The pro-subsidy faction declares that the people asking these question are well-off, and can probably afford tulips of their own, and so from their place of privilege they are trying to raise pointless objections to other people being able to obtain the connubial happiness they themselves enjoy. After the doubters are tarred and feathered and thrown in the river, Parliament votes that the public purse pay for as many tulips as the poor need, whatever the price.

He makes the analogy to the Progressive movement for “free college,” where everyone is viewed as entitled to a four-year degree at public expense, without much consideration of the cost or value of such degrees. Then he points out his own profession, medicine, as an example where arbitrarily costly educational requirements may have little benefit and high costs:

In America, aspiring doctors do four years of undergrad in whatever area they want (I did Philosophy), then four more years of medical school, for a total of eight years post-high school education. In Ireland, aspiring doctors go straight from high school to medical school and finish after five years.

I’ve done medicine in both America and Ireland. The doctors in both countries are about equally good. When Irish doctors take the American standardized tests, they usually do pretty well. Ireland is one of the approximately 100% of First World countries that gets better health outcomes than the United States. There’s no evidence whatsoever that American doctors gain anything from those three extra years of undergrad. And why would they? Why is having a philosophy degree under my belt supposed to make me any better at medicine?

(I guess I might have acquired a talent for colorectal surgery through long practice pulling things out of my ass, but it hardly seems worth it.)

I’ll make another confession. Ireland’s medical school is five years as opposed to America’s four because the Irish spend their first year teaching the basic sciences – biology, organic chemistry, physics, calculus. When I applied to medical school in Ireland, they offered me an accelerated four year program on the grounds that I had surely gotten all of those in my American undergraduate work. I hadn’t. I read some books about them over the summer and did just fine.

Americans take eight years to become doctors. Irishmen can do it in four, and achieve the same result. Each year of higher education at a good school – let’s say an Ivy, doctors don’t study at Podunk Community College – costs about $50,000. So American medical students are paying an extra $200,000 for…what?

Remember, a modest amount of the current health care crisis is caused by doctors’ crippling level of debt. Socially responsible doctors often consider less lucrative careers helping the needy, right up until the bill comes due from their education and they realize they have to make a lot of money right now. We took one look at that problem and said “You know, let’s make doctors pay an extra $200,000 for no reason.”

And to paraphrase Dirkson, $200,000 here, $200,000 there, and pretty soon it adds up to real money. 20,000 doctors graduate in the United States each year; that means the total yearly cost of requiring doctors to have undergraduate degrees is $4 billion. That’s most of the amount of money you’d need to house every homeless person in the country ($10,000 to house one homeless x 600,000 homeless).

Alexander cites more examples from his immediate family and friends of the use of degree and certification requirements to keep talented, motivated people out of professions and jobs:

But it’s not just medicine. Let me tell you about my family.

There’s my cousin. He wants to be a firefighter. He’s wanted to be a firefighter ever since he was young, and he’s done volunteer work for his local fire department, who have promised him a job. But in order to get it, he has to go do four years of college. You can’t be a firefighter without a college degree. That would be ridiculous. Back in the old days, when people were allowed to become firefighters after getting only thirteen measly years of book learning, I have it on good authority that several major states burnt to the ground.

My mother is a Spanish teacher. After twenty years teaching, with excellent reviews by her students, she pursued a Masters’ in Education because her school was going to pay her more money if she had it. She told me that her professors were incompetent, had never actually taught real students, and spent the entire course pushing whatever was the latest educational fad; however, after paying them thousands of dollars, she got the degree and her school dutifully increased her salary. She is lucky. In several states, teachers are required by law to pursue a Masters’ degree to be allowed to continue teaching. Oddly enough, these states have no better student outcomes than states without this requirement, but this does not seem to affect their zeal for this requirement. Even though many rigorous well-controlled studies have found that presence of absence of a Masters’ degree explains approximately zero percent of variance in teacher quality, many states continue to require it if you want to keep your license, and almost every state will pay you more for having it.

Before taking my current job, I taught English in Japan. I had no Japanese language experience and no teaching experience, but the company I interviewed with asked if I had an undergraduate degree in some subject or other, and that was good enough for them. Meanwhile, I knew people who were fluent in Japanese and who had high-level TOEFL certification. They did not have a college degree so they were not considered.

My ex-girlfriend majored in Gender Studies, but it turned out all of the high-paying gender factories had relocated to China. They solved this problem by going to App Academy, a three month long, $15,000 course that taught programming. App Academy graduates compete for the same jobs as people who have taken computer science in college, a four-year-long, $200,000 undertaking.

I see no reason to think my family and friends are unique. The overall picture seems to be one of people paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a degree in Art History to pursue a job in Sales, or a degree in Spanish Literature to get a job as a middle manager. Or not paying hundreds of thousands of dollars, if they happen to be poor, and so being permanently locked out of jobs as a firefighter or salesman.

This is a picture of a society where distant authorities control employment qualifications for political and bureaucratic reasons and thereby prevent many people who would be very good at a job from having any chance of getting it. The “free college” movement is just more of the same central-planning-style thinking: removing all obstacles so that everyone — no matter how poorly-motivated, ill-prepared, or congenitally stupid — goes to a college, no matter how dumbed-down. Which by magic will allow all of them to be placed in good professional jobs with high salaries and secure futures. Because college is good, everyone should go! And heaven help us when barely-competent professionals are running important institutions because they have been passed along through an education system where no one fails.

This faith in college education for all is a secular version of believing prayer in schools will somehow uplift the morality of children forced to pray. It is promoted not only by the “Baptists” who believe, but by the self-interested bootleggers who benefit from force-feeding students and tax dollars to academic bureaucracies that employ mostly Democrat-aligned voters, which is why more funding for college is always on that party’s agenda.

This tax-supported credentialism has begun to erode standards in higher education, to the point where half or more of students with A and B averages in high school still need remedial coursework[6] before even starting a college-level program. As the corrupting effect of government student loan financing took hold in colleges and universities, standards fell, and resources go to expensive facilities and administrators while teaching is often assigned to low-paid, abused gypsy adjunct instructors. The result is a pervasive decline in the quality of college graduates at all but the highest-level institutions and a heavy burden of debt on students who discover too late that a college degree is no guarantee of a job paying enough to pay for it.

Credentialism is lazy, and part of the no-competence, no-consequences culture brought to us by government. The party of government works very hard to feed their voters a steady diet of stories deflecting blame for institutional failure toward for-profit colleges, prisons, and medical facilities while exempting the nonprofit, government-employee-staffed equivalents from any scrutiny, when they are often just as corrupt. Requiring 4-year degrees for most jobs ratifies the dumbing-down of the high school degree, which used to certify a broad education in the basics sufficient for middle-class skilled employment.

—

[1] EEOC letter dated June 11, 2012. “ADA & Title VII: High School Diploma Requirement and Disparate Impact.” https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/foia/letters/2012/ada_title_vii_diploma_disparate_impact.html
[2] “Ban the Box: US Cities, Counties, and States Adopt Fair Hiring Policies,” by Michelle Natividad Rodriguez and Beth Avery, National Employment Law Project. http://www.nelp.org/publication/ban-the-box-fair-chance-hiring-state-and-local-guide/
[3] “The Rubber Room: The battle over New York City’s worst teachers,” by Steven Brill. The New Yorker, August 31, 2009. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/08/31/the-rubber-room
[4] http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/06/06/against-tulip-subsidies/
[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania
[6] “Trapped in the Community College Remedial Maze,” by Mikhail Zinshteyn, Atlantic, February 26, 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/02/community-colleges-remedial-classes/471192/

More reading on other topics:

Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Death by HR: EEOC Incompetence and the Coming IdiocracyRegulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

Goodreads Review of “Bad Boyfriends” – “This book will save singles immense pain…”

Bad Boyfriends Audiobook Cover

Bad Boyfriends Audiobook

A new Goodreads review of Bad Boyfriends: Using Attachment Theory to Avoid Mr. (or Ms.) Wrong and Make You a Better Partner:

Kimberley rated it 5 stars out of 5 – “it was amazing!”

Bad Boyfriends is a guide to help women (or men) navigate the world of dating, particularly helping them in weeding out “avoidant” men (or women) who don’t have the capacity of participating in a healing, nurturing, healthy relationship without a great deal of therapeutic support and deep work. This book is going to save singles immense pain if it helps them discover this attachment style (and other pathologies) early on, before much time is invested in the relationship. My ex-boyfriend has been heroically honest with the women after me that he begins to date, letting them know that this is his attachment style, and so far, no woman wants to begin a relationship with him. I don’t think relationships work with this type of person because if they meet another avoidant, neither can sustain a relationship beyond a month or two. If they meet someone with an ambivalent attachment style, like me, it will become a living hell for the ambivalent partner. The avoidant doesn’t feel the pain of loss when a relationship ends and actually welcome the end and is relieved by it. There is some hope for an avoidant if they can be with a partner with a history of secure attachment. It will take a great deal of patience on the partner’s part and the ability or desire to be alone a lot.

Shibboleths of the New Class: Identity Politics and Language

Judith Butler - Wikipedia

Judith Butler – Wikipedia

Freddie de Boer has a short critique of the New York Magazine profile of Judith Butler that makes a good point:

I find the author’s basic contention – that Butler and the type of academic leftism she has spearheaded have transformed the American cultural and political world – indisputable. In its obsession with language as the sole arbiter of all things, its sorting of all people into broad camps of good and bad based on the use of abstruse vocabulary and assorted virtue signaling, and its near-total silence on the economic foundations of injustice, I find the theories and ideas discussed in the profile to be entirely indicative of 21st century American liberalism….

This is the reality of capitalism: everything that is perceived to be a social good will be monetized, and everything that can be monetized will be distributed unequally. And so today we have these radical queer arguments and terms bandied about by the very people who perpetuate a world of entrenched and powerful inequality, Pride flags whipping in the breeze in front of Goldman Sachs, people in $3,000 suits dismissing the gender binary as they meet for cocktails in a hideously expensive DC hotel. Meanwhile, the grubby masses, lacking access to the kind of private liberal arts colleges where one learns these Byzantine codes, now can add political and moral poverty to their economic and social poverty. This is the next great project of the American elite: building a political system that ensures the winners in winner-take-all enjoy not just the fruits of material gain, but the certainty that their elevated station is deserved thanks to their elevated moral standing. Manhattan vocabulary for Manhattan people leading Manhattan lives, and all of it expressed in just the right terms.

Let’s back up and look at the subject of the fawning profile he’s critiquing, Judith Butler:

Gender Trouble, published in 1990, made Butler a star: It introduced “performativity,” the idea that gender isn’t something we are but something we continually do, opening the door for “cultural configurations of sex and gender [to] proliferate,” as she put it in the book’s conclusion, “confounding the very binarism of sex, and exposing its fundamental unnaturalness.” If not for Butler’s work, “you wouldn’t have the version of genderqueer-ness that we now have,” says Jack Halberstam, a gender-studies professor at Columbia. “She made it clear that the body is not a stable foundation for gender expression.”

For much of her career, Butler was known mostly within academia, in part because of the difficulty of her prose. And yet the work Butler demands of readers is of a kind that, more than ever, they are willing to do now — if not necessarily while reading theoretical texts, then in moving through their daily lives. People outside the academy question their assumptions; they wrestle with unfamiliar ideas and examine their own discomfort. “Don’t laugh,” read a recent headline in the Washington Post. “I have a serious reason for raising my cats gender neutral.” (The reason: as a reminder to use the right pronouns for nonbinary friends.) Theoryspeak, meanwhile, has infiltrated civilian vocabularies. Trope and problematic and heteronormative; even, in a not-quite-Butlerian sense, performative — the sort of words that rankled queer theory’s culture-wars critics — are right at home on Tumblr and Twitter. In a broad-stroke, vastly simplified version, the understanding of gender that Gender Trouble suggests is not only recognizable; it is pop.

Progressive implies progress — the moving forward toward a goal. But what is the goal of today’s intersectionalist, academic-influenced identity politics? Not a state where all individuals are treated equally under the law, and not a society where merit and competition determine who gets the resources to invest in the future wellbeing of everyone. No, it is more about the getting of resources — in the form of secure academic and government jobs — by showing oneself to be the virtuous defender of downtrodden people of color and alternative gender identity. Demonstrating “advanced” abilities to use the language of identitarian politics gives you access to advancement in academia and government, where reality testing in the form of having to produce satisfying products for customers isn’t a big factor in organizational survival.

Here’s a paragraph of her academic writing from her 1997 paper in the journal Diacritics:

The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.

Yes, that was very bad, wasn’t it? [Channeling Leonard Pinth-Garnell, played by Dan Aykroyd in early Saturday Night Live sketches about pretentious, bad art.]

Freddie is irritated because this upper-class SJW virtue-signalling has almost blotted out old-fashioned redistributive political movements. Class warfare, trade unions for industrial workers, soaking the rich — all lost their currency, and now the most-connected, most-privileged people of all colors and genders use their perfected command of identitarian language as just another way to bar the entry of the real downtrodden of all colors and genders. As he points out, one of the characteristics of free market capitalism is its ready co-optation of nearly every social movement — buy your hippie beads here, kids! — by not resisting but enveloping and adopting. The movement is defused and the power structure remains untouched, at the expense of the unwashed masses who vote and pay taxes. The Progressive Barack Obama typifies this strategy of distraction — while apparently offering a Progressive agenda, his administration was staffed by Wall Street finance types who were unlikely to disrupt the finance industry’s over-large share of the national income, and the revolving door between health insurance companies and his ACA implementors in HHS led to headlines like this in the New York Times: “Head of Obama’s Health Care Rollout to Lobby for Insurers”:

WASHINGTON — Marilyn B. Tavenner, the former Obama administration official in charge of the rollout of HealthCare.gov, was chosen on Wednesday to be the top lobbyist for the nation’s health insurance industry.

Ms. Tavenner, who stepped down from her federal job in February, will become president and chief executive of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade group whose members include Aetna, Anthem, Humana, Kaiser Permanente and many Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.

The “stray voltage” issues put up by the Administration are designed to distract from their many failures in foreign policy and their crony-capitalist corruption in sending tax dollars and settlement money to political supporters. The issues of bathroom laws, gun control, and the (nonexistent) epidemic of campus rape are designed to be largely symbolic gestures generating conflict with the perceived enemies of Democratic client classes and have nothing to do with the really critical work of keeping money flowing into campaign coffers and providing high-paid sinecures for fellow travellers.

More reading on other topics:

Update: California High-Speed Rail Nearly Dead
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism
Orlando and Elite Bigotry: Come Out as an American
Progressive Displacement and Social Media: Gun Control Edition

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

The Justice is Too Damn High! – Gawker, the High Cost of Litigation, and the Weapon Shops of Isher

The Weapon Shops of Isher - Thrilling Wonder Stories

The Weapon Shops of Isher – Thrilling Wonder Stories (1951)

Gawker filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to avoid paying the bond which would otherwise be necessary to appeal the $140 million judgment against them in the Hulk Hogan sex tape lawsuit. (It’s a good thing I don’t have to explain that sentence to a time traveler from the last century — would take a long time.) There have been plenty of stories and hot takes on it, so I’ll reach back to discuss what the real problem is — the cost of justice is too damn high.

Meanwhile, the Orlando massacre has been used opportunistically to try to re-open the gun control debate, with Administration and Democratic efforts aimed at diverting outrage from Islamist terrorism to domestic political targets.

A. E. van Vogt’s classic science fiction novel The Weapon Shops of Isher (1951) commented on both issues: the lack of practical access to justice in an increasingly corporate-dominated imperial society and the value of the right to bear arms as a counterweight to a domineering government. While the novel was by today’s standards not very well written, it exploded with ideas and commentary on a corrupt society and individual rights of defense and access to justice for the private citizen. From a review by Jayme Lynn Blaschke:

…[T]he Weapon Shops’ credo could be adopted by the gun lobby today without much fuss: “The right to buy weapons is the right to be free.”

Thousands of years from now, humanity is locked into the solar system, having colonized the planets but able to get no farther without faster-than-light technology. The solar system is held tightly in the iron grip of the Empire of Isher, currently headed up by the young, arrogant and impulsive Empress Innelda. The Empire itself is, however, dysfunctional at best, riddled with graft and corruption. Corporations run rampant, pulling scams and illegal takeovers left and right, gouging the helpless citizenry and government agency alike — no matter that most corporations are owned either wholly or in part by that same government. Enter the Weapon Shops… ready and willing so sell all manner of destructive power dirt cheap to the people who want it. And what power it is! Guns that instantaneously teleport to the owner’s hand with a thought, casting up defensive screens that protect the wielder from any and all power the Empire can bring to bear.

There’s a catch, though. Soldiers, government agents and others in the service of the Empress are not allowed entrance to the shops, much less the ability to buy weapons. Likewise, no one with malice towards the shops and their makers are allowed access either. And just to make sure a “Saturday Night Special” factor never comes into play, the fantastic weapons can only be used for hunting, self-defense or suicide. When turned against another human being or used for crime they will not function. If only the same could be said of today’s street level arsenals!

Today’s United States resembles the Empire of Isher more than a little — a relatively prosperous population, but with layer upon layer of accreted law, regulation, and bureaucracy, with ideals of justice corrupted in practice so that only the wealthiest can afford government-sanctioned courts. Everyone else — even a wealthy and famous citizen like “Hulk Hogan” (real name Terry Bollea) — has to appeal to some organization or government agency for relief. Hogan’s sex tape lawsuit against muckraking new media giant Gawker could not have gone forward without secret financing from billionaire Peter Thiel, who is said to have kicked in $10 million to finance this and other lawsuits against Gawker. As Thiel told the New York Times:

Mr. Thiel added: “I can defend myself. Most of the people they attack are not people in my category. They usually attack less prominent, far less wealthy people that simply can’t defend themselves.” He said that “even someone like Terry Bollea who is a millionaire and famous and a successful person didn’t quite have the resources to do this alone.”

Mr. Thiel said that he had decided several years ago to set his plan in motion. “I didn’t really want to do anything,” he said. “I thought it would do more harm to me than good. One of my friends convinced me that if I didn’t do something, nobody would.”

Mr. Thiel has donated money to the Committee to Protect Journalists and has often talked about protecting freedom of speech. He said he did not believe his actions were contradictory. “I refuse to believe that journalism means massive privacy violations,” he said. “I think much more highly of journalists than that. It’s precisely because I respect journalists that I do not believe they are endangered by fighting back against Gawker.”

Plenty of ink has been spilled on this verdict, mostly by writers for publications afraid that billionaires will crush media outlets that dare to offend them. But the real problem highlighted is the lack of justice for everyone else. Gawker had already willfully trampled on the privacy rights of hundreds of citizens in a manner that might easily have resulted in damage awards had any of those victims had the financial resources to pursue claims against it in the court system. But none did, and the abuse of privacy and copyright by clickbait publications like Gawker had become a highly-profitable industry, selling ads for thousands of articles that more responsible media would not have touched for legal reasons.

This is not unlike the “tragedy of the commons” seen in junk calling — a small burden on every phone customer converted to big bucks for the junk callers through mass violation of both good manners and the Do Not Call Registry law. And similarly, there is a call for government regulation — to create an agency to get justice for the little guy when the court system is impractical. In Britain, schemes to create arbitration agencies that would reduce costs to all parties in defamation complaints are being discussed, with the goal of allowing people of more modest means to pursue valid complaints while reducing costs to the press. In the US, there is no similar movement, although anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) laws exist in some states to allow targets of lawsuits by well-funded interests to have them dismissed more easily — but there is still little assistance for either plaintiffs or defendants in civil court.

In civil cases, most individuals are forced to represent themselves, as in this case from “We don’t need fewer lawyers. We need cheaper ones,” an article by Martha Bergmark of Voices for Civil Justice:

Unable to afford representation, more Americans are going to court alone, and they’re losing. In 2014, a Louisiana woman, J., landed in court after a dispute with her landlord over a $25 parking fee. J., 52, was suffering from cancer and did not have an attorney. The court ruled against her and ordered her to vacate her home within 24 hours.

J.’s case, which was later taken on by Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, sounds extreme, but for someone who can’t afford legal counsel, the outcome isn’t surprising. The sad reality is that many Americans facing the loss of a home, family or livelihood are going it alone in civil court, and they’re losing.

In well over two-thirds of critical cases in America’s civil courts, people appear without a lawyer, even though the stakes are often just as high as in criminal proceedings. Many people suffer crushing losses in court not because they’ve done something wrong, but simply because they don’t have legal help….

In 70 to 98 percent of cases in America’s civil courts today, one or both parties are not represented by a lawyer. One report found that civil legal aid programs must turn away almost two-thirds of the people who seek their assistance in critical civil cases, despite research showing that in many such cases, access to legal help makes all the difference. In evictions, for example, two-thirds of tenants who go to court without a lawyer lose their homes, while two-thirds of those represented by an attorney are able to keep them. In complex areas of the law, legal help is essential to enable people to understand and defend their rights. But legal help has become so expensive — about $200 to $300 an hour on average and drastically higher at the largest law firms – that it’s unaffordable, not just for those struggling to make ends meet, but even for most middle-class Americans.

There have been some efforts at reform in civil courts. CLASP (Center for Law and Social Policy) outlines the civic legal aid system and some efforts to assist defendents representing themselves in court:

Civil legal aid in the United States is provided by a large number of
separate and independent staff-based service providers funded by a variety of sources. The
current overall funding is approximately $1.34 billion. The largest element of the civil legal aid
system is comprised of the 134 programs that are funded and monitored by LSC…. there are a variety of other sources, including local governments, other federal government sources, the private bar, United Way, and private foundations.

Over the last 12 years, the civil legal aid system has begun in earnest to utilize innovations in technology to improve and expand access to the civil justice system. As a result, low-income persons have access to information about legal rights and responsibilities and about the options and services available to solve their legal problems, protect their legal rights, and promote their legal interests. Technological innovation in virtually all states has led to the creation of Web sites that offer community legal education information, pro se legal assistance, and other information about the courts and social services. Most legal aid programs now have Web sites with over 300 sites.

All states have a statewide website, most of which also contain information useful both to advocates and clients. Most of these statewide web sites were made possible by the Technology Initiative Grants program of LSC. All of these state sites can be accessed through http://www.lawhelp.org. Half of the sites are hosted on one platform operated by Pro Bono net. Dozens of national sites provide substantive legal information to advocates; other national sites support delivery, management, and technology functions. Many program, statewide, and national websites are using cutting-edge software and offering extensive functionality. I-CAN projects in many states use kiosks with touch-screen computers that allow clients to produce court-ready pleadings and access to other services, such as help with filing for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Video conferencing is being used in Montana and other states to connect clients in remote locations with local courthouses and legal services attorneys.

In criminal cases, indigent defendants are appointed counsel from a public defender’s office, usually an agency of the state. These attorneys are of uneven quality and assigned too many cases, often resulting in less-than-adequate defenses for the poor who rely on them. Then other non-profit organizations sue the states for providing insufficient resources for public defenders, and the game is on — more lawyers contend to paper over the real problem of a costly and antiquated justice system by calling for more tax money instead of reforming the system’s processes to save money by using new technologies and streamlined procedures. The same phenomenon has left us with failed urban schools at very high cost, and inflated costs and lowered quality in every government-run or heavily-regulated service. This absurdity reaches its peak in California’s death penalty expenses — prosecution in a death penalty case costs about $1.1 million more than a similar life sentence case, and the state pays $90 thousand yearly per death row inmate in incarceration costs, plus another $85 thousand yearly in public defender costs to deal with ongoing mandatory appeals. Legislators and judges created a slow and complex process, then both prosecution and defense attorneys are funded with taxpayer money — justice is delayed for decades and both victim’s families and perpetrators get no closure.

Alternative dispute resolution methods — including regulatory agencies, class-action entrepreneurs, and binding arbitration of consumer disputes — have been created to deal with the impracticality of enforcing the law and contracts via the court system. None of these are entirely satisfactory.

Regulatory agencies like insurance commissions, banking regulators, and the alphabet Federal agencies (FTC, FDA, EEOC, DoL, etc.) tend to be captured by the industry they regulate, and the revolving door providing cushy lobbying jobs for retired regulators gives them an incentive to rule for the most powerful. These agencies can perform a valuable role in mediating and screening out groundless complaints, but the higher the level of government they operate at and the larger the industry revenues involved, the less likely they are to be approachable and helpful for average consumers. State-level health insurance regulators, for example, vary widely in quality, but in many cases went to bat for consumers to rectify the worst health insurance company abuses, while the Federal takeover of individual health insurance markets via the ACA has left consumers with limited choices. State insurance regulators dare not threaten the few companies remaining in many markets with loss of their licenses.

Class-action lawsuits combine the small grievances of many consumers into one lawsuit against offenders. This is called “mass tort litigation” or “multi-district litigation” (“MDL”). While these suits can result in effective punishment for egregious mass violations of law or contract, more commonly they are settled by big companies regardless of actual guilt as a cost of doing business, and they have created an ecosystem of law firms that extort settlements returning little to the injured and enriching primarily the law firms involved. Judges will occasionally push back when the attorneys from both sides fail to propose much of a return to the supposedly injured parties, but more commonly will accept a token effort while most of the settlement goes to fund the lawyers involved. Elizabeth Chamblee Burch of the law school at U Georgia comments on recent trends in MDL settlements which show widespread self-dealing by plaintiff attorneys:

I’ve spent the better part of the past year and a half analyzing the publicly available nonclass aggregate settlements that have taken place in multidistrict litigation alongside leadership appointments, common-benefit fees, and, where available, recovery to the plaintiffs. This has given me an in-depth look at what’s happening (or has happened) in Propulsid, Vioxx, Yasmin/Yaz, DePuy ASR Hip Implant, Fosamax (2243), American Medical Systems pelvic mesh litigation, Biomet, NuvaRing, and Actos…. This endeavor has been deeply unsettling for a variety of ethical, doctrinal, and systemic reasons…. I had no idea how widespread the problems were or how they had evolved over time from deal to deal until now.

Propulsid appears to be the primogenitor, for all subsequent deals in the data replicated some aspect of its closure provisions. But Propulsid is extraordinarily troubling: 6,012 plaintiffs abandoned their right to sue in court in favor of settling. Only 37 of them (0.6 percent) recovered any settlement money through the physician-controlled claims review process, receiving little more than $6.5 million in total. Lead lawyers, on the other hand, received over $27 million in common-benefit fees through a deal they negotiated directly with the defendant (and had the court approve). Sadly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg…. [R]epeat players on both sides continually achieve their goals in tandem — defendants end massive suits and lead plaintiffs’ lawyers increase their common-benefit fees. But this exchange may result in lower payouts to plaintiffs, stricter evidentiary burdens in claims processing, or higher plaintiff-participation requirements in master settlements.

Even worse is the collusion of tort bar attorneys with state Attorneys General to target entire industries for shakedowns. The first major example was the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement, where many states and law firms cooperated to extract $billions from tobacco firms, then tried to limit new entrants into the cigarette industry to allow the settling companies to extract enough revenue from addicted smokers to pay the hefty settlement fees. Currently, a similar effort (conspiracy?) is underway to target oil companies and dissenting voices for their failure to warn investors and citizens about the risks of climate change.

So not only is justice through the courts too costly for all but the wealthiest individuals, the system can be systematically abused to extract rents from targeted groups, unjustly enriching certain attorneys and furthering political corruption.

Binding arbitration clauses now appear in most contracts between consumers and businesses. This protects the business against tort bar extortion while in theory allowing a low-cost, streamlined adjudication of consumer claims. The Federal Arbitration Act outlines conditions allowing mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts to supersede class action or other lawsuits in US and most state courts. This was most recently upheld when the Supreme Court overruled a state court ruling and disallowed a class action lawsuit against DirecTV in California:

The decision is consistent with a series of rulings in recent years that have given corporations a legal way to bypass the courts. Company lawyers say arbitration can be a faster, less expensive and fairer way to resolve disputes.

Consumer-rights advocates and plaintiffs lawyers mostly disagree. They say that many consumer complaints, including over unexpected charges and fees, are too small to justify someone going through an arbitration hearing. The DirecTV fee, for example, could be as high as $480. If consumers cannot join a class-action suit, such complaints will go unheard, advocates say.

“This is another troubling day for American consumers who are ripped off by corporate greed and malfeasance, whether it’s a satellite TV system that doesn’t work, unlawful credit card fees or a defective vehicle,” said Harvey Rosenfield, founder of Consumer Watchdog, and one of the lawyers who represented consumers in the litigation. “The Supreme Court has taken away Americans’ only right to obtain justice: their day in court.”

Of course it is also impractical for consumers to individually dispute corporate actions in court, and the real skirmish here is between class-action lawyers (who want more of a cut in the settlement proceeds) and the companies who prefer arbitration (who want lower costs and predictable remedies.) Even arbitration is impractical for small consumer injuries — which is why the remedy of taking one’s business elsewhere is so important, and why use of regulation to limit consumer choice and prop up monopolies in utility and telecomm sectors is so damaging to consumers, who end up paying more and have little recourse for bad service and abusive charges. And while it’s true arbitration schemes will often favor the big firms who select the arbitration agencies and pay the costs, the tort bar and big companies also cooperate to reach settlements that favor them jointly and neglect compensation for the injured parties.

The impractically-high cost of the court system has been a problem for decades. As early as 1983, thoughtful observers in a New York Times story worried that courts were too costly and were accessible only to the wealthy, and that the burden of slow and complex litigation was too great:

Experts as diverse as Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, Attorney General William French Smith, Griffin B. Bell, the Attorney General in the Carter Administration, and Derek Bok, the president of Harvard University and former dean of the Harvard Law School, argue that the country suffers from too many laws, too many lawsuits, too many legal entanglements and, at least in Mr. Bok’s view, too many lawyers.

While such complaints are not new, they are being voiced with increasing urgency by many pillars of the legal establishment as well as by outside critics.

In his most recent of many complaints about the Supreme Court’s swollen caseload, a May 17 speech to the American Law Institute, Chief Justice Burger declared that the nation was plagued “with an almost irrational focus — virtually a mania – on litigation as a way to solve all problems.”

Mr. Bok, in his annual report to the Board of Overseers of Harvard College, said the United States had “developed a legal system that is the most expensive in the world yet cannot manage to protect the rights of most of its citizens.”

Warnings about increased litigiousness alternate with expressions of concern that most citizens cannot afford to hire lawyers to press legitimate claims and defenses against, for example, landlords and creditors.

Lloyd N. Cutler, one of Washington’s most prominent corporate lawyers, has written of large law firms like his own: “The rich who pay our fees are less than 1 percent of our fellow citizens, but they get at least 95 percent of our time. The disadvantaged we serve for nothing are perhaps 20 to 25 percent of the population and get at most 5 percent of our time. The remaining 75 percent cannot afford to consult us and get virtually none of our time.”

Thomas Ehrlich, a former head of the Federal program of legal assistance to poor people and now provost of the University of Pennsylvania, says that because “private wealth is the primary criterion for access to the legal system,” justice often eludes the poor.

But Mr. Bok stresses that “the wealthy and the powerful also chafe under the burden” of regulations, delays, legal uncertainties and manipulations. Some landlords, for example, complain that federally subsidized legal aid lawyers use technicalities to help poor tenants avoid eviction while they refuse to pay rent.

The chorus of concern about justice in America masks great diversity in the views of the critics, whose diagnoses often reflect opposing political views and whose prescriptions for reform often conflict.

For example, the contention by Chief Justice Burger and others that the legal system is being overwhelmed by excessive litigiousness has been questioned by scholars and others who are wary of any proposals to make it harder for individuals to bring lawsuits.

Marc Galanter, a University of Wisconsin law professor specializing in social research on the legal system, says overblown rhetoric about the increase in litigation distracts attention from more severe problems, such as the undue complexity that makes the system so costly and incomprehensible to lay people.

But reform efforts were intermittent, and overwhelmed by the incentives in the system to pass increasingly long and complex laws authorizing agencies to write even more regulations to micromanage every aspect of life. Improvement in some areas, like limitations on tort liability damage awards and increasing use of private arbitration in commercial contracts, were more than countered by production of new and more complex regulations by a bureaucracy needing to keep its staff busy by identifying more targets to regulate. Thirty-odd years later, the problem is worse, and the sense of powerlessness against monopoly services, schools, and governments has reached the boiling point.

Businesses are weighed down by the costs of litigation and the efforts to forestall it, like those undecipherable product manuals heavy with warnings meant to defend against lawsuits. Liability costs in the US are much higher than in most competitive countries. This chart from the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform’s June 2013 update “International Comparisons of Legal Costs” shows comparative costs as a percent of GNP for the US versus Europe:

Liability Costs, US vs Europe -- Institute for Legal Reform

Liability Costs, US vs Europe — Institute for Legal Reform

The “Litigation Cost Survey of Major Companies,” a statement submitted by Lawyers for Civil Justice to the 2010 Conference on Civil Litigation, cited the outsized cost of liitigation to US companies:

Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure frames the purpose of the Rules: “the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.” Every day, corporate and defense counsel must confront the fact that although well‐intentioned, the Rules are falling far short of this goal. The reality is that the high transaction costs of litigation, and in particular the costs of discovery, threaten to exceed the amount at issue in all but the largest cases….

Key Survey Findings

Litigation costs continue to rise and are consuming an increasing percentage of corporate revenue. Litigation transaction costs on average and as a percent of revenue have risen substantially over the past nine years. The amounts of judgments and settlements are not included in these figures.

• The average outside litigation cost per respondent was nearly $115 million in 2008, up 73
percent from $66 million in 2000.  This represents an average increase of 9 percent each year.

• For the 20 companies providing data on this issue for the full survey period, average outside
litigation costs were $140 million in 2008, an increase of 112 percent from $66 million in 2000.

• Between 2000 and 2008, average annual litigation costs as a percent of revenues increased 78
percent for the 14 companies providing data on average litigation costs as a percent of
revenues for the full survey period.

• Increases in hourly rates do not appear to be driving the increase in litigation costs, as the
available data show relatively little change in outside legal fees over time.

The U.S. litigation system imposes a much greater cost burden on companies than systems outside the United States.  As a percent of revenue, multi‐national company respondents to the survey spend a disproportionate amount on litigation in the United States relative to their expenditures in foreign jurisdictions.  Depending on the year, relative U.S. costs were between four and nine times higher than non‐U.S. costs (as a percent of revenue).  This disparity will inevitably influence decisions by corporations about where to invest their resources.  Global competition for foreign investment is increasing, and the changing dynamics of the global economy are affecting the United States’ ability to remain a leader in this area. The International Trade Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce has found that “many foreign investors view the U.S. legal environment as a liability when investing in the United States.”

What could improve this situation? Streamlined courts using modern technology to gather facts and judge cases. Smart contracts and online arbitration services for smaller cases. A thorough overhaul of the antiquated and expensive court system with its well-paid lawyers and staff to improve productivity and speed while lowering costs. Simplification of laws and a pruning of regulatory agencies to the minimum required to maintain a just society would also help.

The Weapon Shops of A. E. van Vogt’s novel were a long-lasting counterweight to oppressive governments, providing both smart weapons and low-cost courts. When written in 1951, smart guns and AI judges were far-future ideas, but real versions of both are likely in the near future. Current smart weapons are still impractical and too unreliable and complex for acceptance (when seconds count, do you want to find out your gun’s batteries have died?) but it won’t be long before personal weapons usable only by the owner and smart enough to detect improper use become available.

The book’s view of a complex society saved from tyranny by multiple power centers and the accessibility of both personal defense weapons and low-cost courts is more relevant now than when it was written. A few excerpts — first, a naive shop owner discovers how little he can do when he has been treated badly by a bank and tries to represent himself in court:

His high sense of duty rightly done lasted until mid-afternoon, when the bailiff from Ferd came to take over the shop.

“But what—” Fara began.

The bailiff said, “The Automatic Atomic Motor Repair Shops, Limited, took over your loan from the bank and are foreclosing.”

“It’s unfair,” said Fara. “I’ll take it to court.” He was thinking dazedly: If the empress ever learned of this, she’d… she’d–

The courthouse was a big, gray building; and Fara felt emptier and colder every second, as he walked along the gray corridors. In Glay, his decision not to give himself into the hands of a lawyer had seemed a wise act. Here, in these enormous halls and palatial rooms, it seemed the sheerest folly.

He managed, nevertheless, to give an account of the criminal act of the bank in first [loaning] the money, then turning over the note to his chief competitor, apparently within minutes of his signing it. He finished with, “I’m sure, sir, the empress would not approve of such goings-on against honest citizens.”

“How dare you,” said the cold-voiced person on the bench, “use the name of Her Holy Majesty in support of your own gross self-interest?”

Fara shivered. The sense of being intimately a member of the empress’s great human family yielded to a sudden chill and a vast mind-picture of the ten million icy courts like this, and the myriad malevolent and heartless men — like this — who stood between the empress and her loyal subject, Fara. He thought passionately: If the empress knew what was happening here, how unjustly he was being treated, she would–

Or would she? He pushed the terrible doubt out of his mind — came out of his reverie with a start, to hear the [judge] saying: “Plaintiff’s appeal dismissed, with costs assessed at seven hundred credits, to be divided between the court and the defense solicitor in the ratio of five to two. See to it that the appellant does not leave until the costs are paid. Next case.”

Fara makes his way to the local Weapon Shop, where he is transported to a different kind of court, and is told to get in line:

The man, a heavy-faced, blue-eyed young chap of around thirty-five, looked at him curiously: “You must know why you’re here,” he said. “Surely, you wouldn’t have been sent through here unless you had a problem of some kind that the Weapon Shop courts will solve for you; there’s no other reason for coming to Information Center.” Fara walked on because he was in the line now, a fast-moving line that curved him inexorably around the machine; and seemed to be heading him toward a door that led into the interior of the great metal structure. So it was a building as well as a machine. A problem, he was thinking, why of course, he had a problem. A hopeless, insoluble, completely tangled problem so deeply rooted in the basic structure of Imperial civilization that the whole world would have to be overturned to make it right. With a start, he saw that he was at the entrance. He thought with awe: In seconds he could be committed irrevocably — to what?

After showing the reader an example of the independent Weapon Shops courts in operation, the author hints that they enforce their judgments by directly taking from the bank accounts of the wrongdoers — the Weapon Shops operate in symbiosis with the government of the day, no matter what its form, by using advanced technology to rebalance the scales of justice. The current government, the Empire of Isher, is run by the willful and arrogant Empress Innelda, who plans to use a new technology to destroy the Weapon Shops and gain full control of her people. Some of her officers, seeing the danger in undermining one of the balancing pillars of Isher society, refuse to participate, and Innelda confronts one officer arrested for desertion:

At half past ten, free of urgent correspondence, she had the officer-deserter brought in. He was a man of thirty-three according to his file, country born and holding the rank of major. He came in; a faint cynical smile on his lips, but his eyes looked depressed. His name was Gile Sanders. Innelda studied him gloomily. According to his file he had three mistresses and had made a fortune out of a peculiar graft involving army purchases. It was a fairly typical case history. And the part that was difficult to understand was why he, who had so much, had given it all up. She asked the question earnestly. “And please,” she said, “do not insult me by suggesting that you were concerned with the moral issue of the war. Tell me simply and plainly why you gave up all your possessions for dishonor and disgrace. In one act you disinherited yourself. The very least that can happen to you is that you’ll be sent to Mars or Venus permanently. Were you a fool or a coward or both?”

He shrugged. “I suppose I was a fool.” His feet fumbled nervously over the floor. His eyes did not evade her direct stare, but his answer left her dissatisfied. After ten minutes she had got no real explanation out of him. It was possible that the profit and loss motivation had not influenced his decision.

She tried a new approach. “According to your file,” she said, “you were notified to report to building eight hundred A and, because of your rank, it was explained to you that at last a method had been found to destroy the weapon shops. An hour later, after having burned your private papers, you left your office and took up residence in a seaside cottage which you had purchased secretly — you thought — five years ago. A week later, when it was clear that you did not intend to do your duty, you were arrested. You have been in close confinement ever since. Is that picture fairly correct?”

The man nodded but said nothing. The empress studied him, biting her lips. “My friend,” she said softly at last, “I have it in my power to make your punishment anything I desire. Anything. Death, banishment, commutation—” she hesitated— “reinstatement.”

Major Sanders sighed wearily. “I know,” he said. “That was the picture I suddenly saw.”

“I don’t understand.” She was puzzled. “If you realize the potentialities of your act, then you were very foolish.”

“The picture,” he said in a monotone, as if he had not heard her interruption, “of a time when someone, not necessarily yourself, would have that power without qualification, without there being anywhere to turn, without alleviation, without — hope.”

She had her answer. “Well, of all the stupidity!” said Innelda explosively. She leaned back in her chair, momentarily overcome, drew a deep breath, then shook her head in irritation. “Major,” she said gently, “I feel sorry for you. Surely your knowledge of the history of my family must have told you that the danger of misuse of power does not exist. The world is too big. As an individual I can interfere in the affairs of such a tiny proportion of the human race that it is ridiculous. Every decree that I issue vanishes into a positive blur of conflicting interpretations as it recedes from me. That decree could be ultimately mild — it would make no difference in the final administration of it. Anything, when applied to eleven billion people, takes on a meaningless quality that is impossible to imagine unless you have studied, as I have, actual results.”

She saw with astonishment that her words had not touched him. She drew back, offended. It was all so crystal clear and here was one more obstinate fool. She restrained her anger with an effort. “Major,” she said, “with the weapon shops out of the way we could introduce steadying laws that could not be flouted. There would be more uniform administration of justice because people would have to accept the judgment of the courts, their only recourse being appeals to the higher courts.”

“Exactly,” said Sanders. That was all. His tone rejected her logic. She studied him for a long moment, all the sympathy gone from her. Then she said bitterly, “If you’re such a firm believer in the Weapon Shops, why didn’t you protect yourself by going to them for a defensive gun?”

“I did.”

She hesitated; then asked coldly, “What was the matter? Did your courage fail you when it came to the point of using it to defend yourself from arrest?” Watching him, she knew she shouldn’t have said that. It left her open to a retort which, she realized, might be devastating. Her fear was justified.

Sanders said, “No, Your Majesty. I did exactly what some of the other — uh — deserters did. I took off my uniform and went to a weapon shop, intending to buy a gun. But the door wouldn’t open. It appears that I am one of the few officers who believe that the Isher family is the more important of the two facets of Isher civilization.” His eyes had been bright as he spoke. Now they grew depressed again. “I am,” he said, “in exactly the position you want to put everybody into. I have no way to turn. I must accept your law; must accept secret declarations of war on an institution that is as much a part of Isher civilization as the House of Isher itself; must accept death if you decree it, without a chance to defend myself in open battle. Your Majesty,” he finished quietly, “I respect and admire you. The officers who deserted are not scoundrels. They were merely confronted with a choice and they chose not to participate in an attack on things as they are. I doubt if I could put it more honestly than that.”

She doubted it too. Here was a man who would never understand the realistic necessity of what she was doing. After she dismissed him she noted his name in her check-file, commenting that she wanted to hear the verdict of his court-martial…. She realized that it was now time to go to the Treasury Department and hear all the reasons why it was impossible to spend more money. With a tired smile, she went out of the study and took a private elevator up to the fiftieth floor.

After writing the Weapon Shops stories, A. E. van Vogt moved to Los Angeles where he met L. Ron Hubbard in 1945 and briefly headed up Hubbard’s Dianetics organization, which later evolved into the Church of Scientology. His interest in overarching meta-systems to explain everything was apparent in his writings, which as a result became less readable. Philip K. Dick cited him as an influence — “Van Vogt influenced me so much because he made me appreciate a mysterious chaotic quality in the universe which is not to be feared.”

The impunity with which Gawker operated for years while stepping on the privacy rights of people for profit is just one symptom of the inability to get justice at a reasonable price. The simmering resentments of citizens made unknowing scofflaws while going about their lives (see Radley Balko’s Reason piece, “We’re All Felons, Now”) and the increasing regulatory overhead to start and run a small business are slowing growth and damaging the careers of young people who have been trained to ask permission before trying anything new.

Meanwhile, the Party of Government, like Empress Innelda, sees only good in its efforts to limit the right of self-defense and increase the revenue and authority of government at every level. They mean well, after all, and this chaos of unmanaged freedom and unregulated commerce must give way to those who know what’s best for all the little people. America was a good idea once, but it’s too dangerous to continue the experiment started in 1776….

Walter Olson’s Overlawyered: Chronicling the High Cost of Our Legal System is a good source for news on justice system excesses and the negative side-effects of its high cost.

More reading on other topics:

Update: California High-Speed Rail Nearly Dead
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism
Orlando and Elite Bigotry: Come Out as an American
Progressive Displacement and Social Media: Gun Control Edition

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

Update: California High-Speed Rail Nearly Dead

Virginia Postrel has a good article on Bloomberg discussing the latest snags in the HSR project, the boondoggle being kept on life-support to shield the careers of politicians who have kept it going long after the original promises to voters were broken. I ended the previous post on the project with this:

A high-speed rail line through dense urban areas and mountains was always going to be a difficult project. But pie-in-the-sky projects pay off when you can direct money to your political supporters preparing for it, get back some of that as campaign contributions, and retire from public life before the public realizes they got nothing for their tax dollars. As in all these Bootleggers and Baptists stories, the “bootleggers” — politicians, unions, and contractors — pushed the project through fully aware the proposal was a fantasy and sold the dream to idealistic voters. Having foolishly voted for the bonds, the voters will never be allowed another vote to stop the project.

I don’t remember my own vote on the bond initiative — I may well have said yes since like other voters, I believed the promises made in the initiative would be kept, or if not, that the funding would be blocked. But courts have allowed the project to proceed and bond money to be spent despite ample evidence that those promises have not and cannot be met.

When I mentioned this on Facebook, I got this response back from friend David Gerrold, who is a good representative of those dreamers (the Baptists) who want something good and ignore until the bitter end the evidence that it can’t happen. I sympathize with the idealism, but also see the damage done when fantasy is more politically important than reality. Here’s his reaction:

David Gerrold Comment

This is the dream we were sold. None of those promises can be kept, especially the climate change benefits — since the fate of the project is now certain, further expenditure of $billions will leave behind nothing but partly-constructed tracks for a route that won’t be used enough to save even the carbon emissions used in materials to build it, so it’s even going to be a big net loss on the global warming front.

Developments since my last post make this even clearer. The Obama administration gave the project a temporary exemption from the rule requiring the state put up its own matching funds before the Federal money would be released. This exemption is the only reason project work can continue, with the state essentially borrowing its own contribution from the Federal government until its own funds are available.

The funds the state expected to have from emissions control credit auctions have gone missing. The latest auction was a failure, providing only $2.5 million for the train project vs the $150 million expected. The original promise of private matching investment has not happened and no private company is interested. The emissions money amounts to a tax on California industry and citizens and is not structured to be a reliable stream of funding. The entire funding scheme teeters on the brink as legislators eye the lists of much more critical infrastructure projects that would have to be cut to fund the train. While Governor Jerry Brown continues to support it, others are edging toward the door, eying each other as the realization sinks in that the merde is about to hit the rotational airfoil. No one wants to be first on the governor’s team to declare the truth, and so the zombie project appears to live. Here’s the original proposed route:

California HSR Original Route - Wikipedia

California HSR Original Route – Wikipedia

The original promise of high-speed service from downtown SF to downtown LA (and San Diego) was scrapped years ago, with the current $65 billion project estimate for the originally-proposed first phase from SF to LA unfunded and likely to remain unfunded. The desperate goal of project proponents now is to build something to entrench the project. The LA Times story on the rationalizations for building the least-useful part first:

The shift to the Bay Area [building the segment from San Jose to Bakersfield first] will help the California High-Speed Rail Authority hold down costs and expedite construction of the system, which is already two years behind schedule, according to details of the new plan released Thursday.

The change would also avoid expensive tunneling and viaduct construction through the geologically complex Tehachapi and San Gabriel Mountains, where several potential routes have been proposed through the Angeles National Forest. Those options have generated political opposition in communities that border the forest.

The high-speed rail authority said shifting to the Bay Area will allow it to have the initial segment operating by 2025, earlier than planned, which will make the project attractive to private investors that would help fill holes in funding.

California HSR Downsized Route - LA Times photo

California HSR Downsized Route – LA Times photo

The HSR Authority has failed to get rights-of-way through the urban areas needed to reach the stations in SF and LA, and the state’s laws giving local NIMBYs power to stall or block any major project with lawsuits funded by wealthy residents of towns like Atherton along the way means those routes will never be available as initially envisioned. Having compromised away all the speed benefits, the high-speed rail project is now a medium-speed rail project, offering little time advantage as its trains will proceed slowly through urbanized areas and stop at every intermediate city. And the low density of California cities, especially LA, means it will be more practical for most people not living near downtown stations to drive directly to their diverse destinations — trips from one downtown to another downtown are only a small fraction of the total demand for instate travel. Improvements to bus services in all metropolitan areas, and smaller, cheaper projects serving the real needs of middle and lower-income workers and families, are being neglected so this shiny dream choo-choo can keep going.

It’s clear the original project proposal was designed to offer some service to most towns in California, whether that was feasible or not, and it was on that basis that it got enough support to get the bond issue through the legislature and the voters. Every single one of the promises — routing, trip times, costs, self-supporting operation, private investment matching — has been broken since, yet the inertia of the project keeps the consulting companies, lawyers, and union workers spending borrowed money to build the train to nowhere.

The Great Slackening is caused by the bureaucratization of everything and the lack of accountability for failure. California’s government is no longer capable of building major infrastructure projects in a timely or efficient manner, and the state will exhaust its funds trying before recognizing that the system must be reformed.

More reading on other topics:

Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Who Killed Prince? Restrictions on Buprenorphine
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Selective Outrage
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):

Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Selective Outrage
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare

More reading on the military:

US Military: From No Standing Armies to Permanent Global Power
US Military: The Desegration Experience
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy