15 March 2011

Why Shouldn't You Be Able to Drink on the Job?

My wife and I saw this a few weeks age and got a nice chuckle.

Fox 29 Investigates: Drinking Postmen : MyFoxPHILLY.com

Unsurprisingly, their union is fighting their dismissal.

08 March 2011

Whatever Would We Do Without Cowboy Poetry

Why shouldn't we slash federal spending? Because necessary federal programs would be cut. How necessary? Well, I'll let senate majority leader Harry Reid explain (italics added):

“The mean-spirited bill, H.R. 1 … eliminates the National Endowment of the Humanities, National Endowment of the Arts,” said Reid. “These programs create jobs. The National Endowment of the Humanities is the reason we have in northern Nevada every January a cowboy poetry festival. Had that program not been around, the tens of thousands of people who come there every year would not exist.”

That's right, not only would the world have to struggle along without Nevada's world-renown cowboy poetry festival, but the existence of any would be attendees would be snuffed out. Tens of thousands of people!

Malapropism of simply hyperbole? Who knows? But if cutting the budget means that the country would be without tens of thousands of people who would flock to Nevada for a cowboy poetry festival (and not just the cowboy poetry festival), then I say let's start cutting.

07 March 2011


I knew Marxism and Marxist were still around. But I was pretty sure Marx was dead. I was wrong.

Nucking Futs

After hearing the news reports about Charlie Sheen, I thought he was deeply. After CBS canceled his show, I thought he was crazy. After seeing and hearing a few interviews with him, especially his interview on the Howard Stern Show, I thought he may not exactly be crazy, just manic--perhaps from detoxing--and that a lot of points he was making were pretty valid. Especially the points that he didn't miss work (at least often) and never breached his contract. So was he crazy or just weird, or perhaps bordering on genius.

Then I saw this.

Video streaming by Ustream

The dude may be talented. He may be intelligent. He's also batshit crazy.

03 March 2011

More on State Employees

Of course unions are building their campaign. Because, like teaching, selling liquor can only be done properly by unionized state employees.

More Rhetoric on Unions

Another predictably tendentious piece, this time from Hendrik Hertzberg of the New Yorker.

Mr. Hertzberg bemoans the fate of labor since its hay day on the middle of the previous century, completely disregarding the fact that corporations, big businesses, fat cats and the rest of the usual suspects don't sit around drinking cognac, smoking cigars and burning dollar bills they've stolen from the surplus value of the labor they've exploited. They've paid market wages for the labor required for production. Any so-called surplus value is typically reinvested, either directly or indirectly. This leads to increasing productivity and innovation. This leads to many goods and services increasing in relative quality will becoming relatively cheaper.

Think of computers. It was almost the stuff of fiction to think that people would have computers in their homes in 1970. It was expensive but feasible in 1980. Slightly cheaper and better and more common in 1990. Almost ubiquitous in 2000. In 2010most people carry around with them phones that have more computing power than anything imaginable by the gentlemen who turned ENIAC on in 1955. And it's a phone. And a camera. And a radio. And, in real terms, much cheaper than anything you could have bought in 1980.

Life has gotten better because companies can pay market wages for the services provided by employees and not occur dead-weight losses due to union wages.

As we produce more, we all benefit. Increasing "income inequality" is a social fiction. Saying rich people make more than they did in 1970 is a fool's argument. And one, not surprisingly, embraced by Mr. Hertzberg. First of all, GDP growth has outpaced population growth. So while the "top earners" may have more, percentage wise, of the "take," everyone is earning more money. And with all due respect to P.J. Proudhon, property is not theft. The CEO of WeWantToRuinTheEarthAndPoisonYourChildren Oil Co. making $150 million dollars does not mean that you or me or anyone else earns less money. Just as the Yankees presumably paying Albert Pujols $300 million over the next ten years doesn't mean there's any less money out there for you or me. A capitalist system is not a closed system. Capital can increase, especially as the factors of production become more efficient, cheaper, better &c.

My absolutely favorite line of the whole piece by Hertzberg is this one describing the new "anti-union" movement in Wisconsin: "The bill, dictated by the new Republican governor, Scott Walker..." Classy move. The verb in the dependent clause is brilliant. Denotatively, Hertzberg is covered in that the wording of the bill was probably crafted by the governor. But he is also able to present the man as a dictator. Never mind that the bill was introduced to the state senate for a vote and it is the Democrats who fled the state, making a vote on the measure impossible.

The rhetoric is that the bill came out of nowhere and the Democrats wanted time for what was in the bill to become public. Well, it's public. It has been for two weeks. If you don't like a bill, vote against it. If it becomes law that you don't like, introduce a bill that will change it. But running out on your job? Because your "side" might lose? And the governor is dictatorial?

Cost v Performance

Another fine piece from the folks at Reason.

02 March 2011

Moore On Wealthy People's Money: "That's Not Theirs, That's A National Resource, It's Ours"

RealClearPolitics - Video - Moore On Wealthy People's Money: "That's Not Theirs, That's A National Resource, It's Ours"

Just watch the video. Priceless. There is no individual, only the collective. Anything you earn belongs to everyone.

Suing John Ashcroft

I heard this on NPR this morning. I won't recap the whole thing, it's not that long a story, but the gist of it is that an American citizen is suing the former attorney general, personally, for violating the citizen's constitutional rights by misusing the "material witness" statute. The Material Witness Statute has been around for a long time and it basically means that the feds have the authority to arrest someone whose testimony is material in a criminal case, and that a subpoena might not be enough to compel his testimony. I find this repugnant on so many levels, but since government agents and legislators seem not to care about the fact that individual rights are mere nuisances to the effective administration of the state, it should not be surprising that both major political parties seem to adore such authority (the Obama administration is appealing a decision by the federal appeals court that would have allowed the case against Ashcroft to go to trial*).
Anyway, the statute has been around for centuries, but the abuse of the authority was kicked up a bit after the attacks on 11 September 2001 and the Justice Department was headed by John Ashcroft.
Again, I don't want to rehash the whole story, but this little tidbit really struck me:

Former Attorney General Mukasey says it's important for the attorney general to be able to use the material witness law in this way "without having to worry about individual liability and saying, 'You know, maybe I better not do this. Maybe we better just let these folks slip through our fingers because one of these individuals might sue.' " (emphasis added)

This was my major complaint with the Bush administration and it is being carried on with great gusto by the Obama administration. Lost in their zeal to protect everyone is the essence of what this country was founded on. A public official granted wide authority by statute, and not by the constitution, is not to be held personally liable in a situation clearly showing disregard not only of basic (fundamental) human rights (life, liberty, property) but of the actual text of the statute itself. Mukasey worries about officials being scared into inaction by threat of lawsuit, when they should be considering, first, foremost and every time, whether the rights of the individual in question are being violated. If the answer is yes, and it clearly is in this case, then no action is to be taken against that individual. Who cares if the guy was going to Saudi Arabia? Whether his ticket was round-trip in coach or one way in first-class, he was not a criminal; not charged with any crime, not suspected of having committed any crime.
And even if he is to be detained merely for providing testimony in a potential criminal case against someone else...three maximum security facilities and frequent strip searches? Not holding the individuals responsible for these atrocities personally liable for their actions merely pushes the burden onto the taxpayer. Yes, the plaintiff will get his payday, but he, and we, will be denied justice. At least he'll get some money, we'll get the bill.
I hope (but doubt) that the Supreme Court will stand on the side of the individual. If not, we will take another step down the Road to Serfdom, accepting more the notion that the government is the master and the people the servants.

*the Obama administration talked a good game before coming to office about how bad the Bush administration was in areas of presidential authority and civil rights. In practice, it has embraced most of the policies and broadened some others. But for the life of me, I can't seem to recall the nasty articles from the New Republic condemning the practices under Obama.

01 March 2011

Why Don't We Just Spend Three Times More

Senator Jeff Sessions (R, Alabama) gets in some good lines while hearing testimony from Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

It reminded me of some points made by yours truly (and bolstered by comments) here.