Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Descent Into Tribalism

This is how it begins. Here's The Washington Post:

Ordered by Congress to "buy American" when spending money from the $787 billion stimulus package, the town of Peru, Ind., stunned its Canadian supplier by rejecting sewage pumps made outside of Toronto. After a Navy official spotted Canadian pipe fittings in a construction project at Camp Pendleton, Calif., they were hauled out of the ground and replaced with American versions. In recent weeks, other Canadian manufacturers doing business with U.S. state and local governments say they have been besieged with requests to sign affidavits pledging that they will only supply materials made in the USA.

I try to explain this in online debates. I labor in vain to explain it at parties. I blog about it at least every two weeks. I point back to the causes of The Great Depression.
I get nowhere.
Let's try again....
A "Buy American" provision in a piece of legislation is no different than a "Boycott Foreigners" provision.
This pisses off the foreigners, and they pressure their governments to retaliate.

Outrage spread in Canada, with the Toronto Star last week bemoaning "a plague of protectionist measures in the U.S." and Canadian companies openly fretting about having to shift jobs to the United States to meet made-in-the-USA requirements. This week, the Canadians fired back. A number of Ontario towns, with a collective population of nearly 500,000, retaliated with measures effectively barring U.S. companies from their municipal contracts -- the first shot in a larger campaign that could shut U.S. companies out of billions of dollars worth of Canadian projects.

But wait, there's more ! !

Take, for instance, Duferco Farrell Corp., a Swiss-Russian partnership that took over a previously bankrupt U.S. steel plant near Pittsburgh in the 1990s and employed 600 people there.
The new buy American provisions, the company said, are being so broadly interpreted that Duferco Farrell is on the verge of shutting down. Part of an increasingly global supply chain that seeks efficiencies by spreading production among multiple nations, it manufactures coils at its Pennsylvania plant using imported steel slabs that are generally not sold commercially in the United States. The partially foreign production process means the company's coils do not fit the current definition of made in the USA -- a designation that the stimulus law requires for thousands of public works projects across the nation.

There are only two reasons we could have ignored this much history to do something this destructive.
Pick one: 1) the Swiss and the Russian owners of this company can't contribute to election campaigns, or 2) Barack Obama is a drooling idiot.
Neither choice reflects well on us.

In recent weeks, its largest client -- a steel pipemaker located one mile down the road -- notified Duferco Farrell that it would be canceling orders. Instead, the client is buying from companies with 100 percent U.S. production to meet the new stimulus regulations. Duferco has had to furlough 80 percent of its workforce.

"You need to tell me how inhibiting business between two companies located one mile apart is going to save American jobs," said Bob Miller, Duferco Farrell's executive vice president. "I've got 600 United Steel Workers out there who are going to lose their jobs because of this. And you tell me this is good for America?"

Bob, your largest client purchased cold-rolled or hot-rolled steel from you because you had the best product for the best price. This created a substantial savings for the end users, whether they were purchasing cars, knives, lawnmowers, scissors or road signs. And what did we consumers do with these savings?

We went to parties. We had fun with our children. We saw movies, lectures, Tennessee Williams plays, Verdi operas, Rogers & Hammerstin musicals, Bob Dylan concerts, and NASCAR races.

People are incredibly creative, and I'm not just talking about Tennessee Williams, Verdi, or Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

I'm talking about Russian and Swiss steel manufacturers. Canadian pop-rivet suppliers. Israeli electronics distributors, They've all allowed us to save time and money. They've allowed us to come down from the trees, take advantage of their wonderful inventions, and profit from them. And you shouldn't have to be from Russia, Switzerland, Canada, or Israel to benefit from their work.

Here's one of my favorite NickM quotes. (Nick's "Counting Cats" site is down today for some reason. Perhaps the British Blog embargo is already underway.... Otherwise, I'd link it.)

"We emerged from tribalism and through the PC mob we are returning to tribalism."

If there's a better way to explain what we're now seeing, I'm all ears.
Idiot picture from here. A tiresome prophecy where I predicted all of this can be found here. You can visit the Duferco Farrell website by clicking here. For daily updates verifying that Barack Obama is an idiot, click here.

Nancy Pelosi's lips are moving

Thursday, May 14, 2009

But Some Are More Equal Than Others

I think my commitment to gay and lesbian rights is established by now.
Heck, I had
this published as an editorial in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

here's Steve Chapman, writing in Reason magazine.

.... Congress never stops trying to ensure full employment for FBI agents and U.S. attorneys. The latest stimulus is the Matthew Shepard Act, billed as an overdue effort to prevent violence against gays and lesbians.The logic behind the proposed measure is hard to follow.

Says sponsoring Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), "No members of society—none—deserve to be victims of a violent crime because of their race, their religion, their ethnic background, their disability, their gender, their gender identity, or their sexual orientation."

Ok, Ted. Your grasp of the obvious has been duly noted.

Which raises the question: Who exactly does deserve to be the victim of a violent crime?
The bill targets actions we would all like to eliminate—physically injuring or trying to injure someone with "fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device."

But it's hard to imagine that it would reduce the prevalence of such conduct, which is already 1) really, really illegal and 2) subject to harsh penalties.This legislation would add extra punishment for attacks designated as hate crimes. But if a criminal is not deterred by the fear of five years behind bars, he's probably not going to be pushed onto the straight and narrow by the prospect of six.

That's not what this is about. This is about allowing Ted Kennedy to increase the perception that he is protector of the helpless (unless you happen to be riding shotgun with him near a bridge.)

In the case of attacks like the one on Matthew Shepard, a gay college student beaten to death in Wyoming in 1998, the statute would be superfluous. His killers were eligible for the death penalty, though both made deals that assured they would be locked up for the rest of their lives. For the most horrific hate crimes, the change would accomplish absolutely nothing.

But you can click here to see how certain groups don't qualify....

That's not the only way in which it would constitute an exercise in irrelevance. Already, 45 states have hate crime laws, and two-thirds of them include crimes against gays and lesbians. In the remaining states, you will be relieved to know, such attacks are punished as violent felonies.

I think the concept is called "equal protection under the law". The way it's supposed to work is that white heterosexual baptist non-handicapped males who aren't mentally ill (I think I covered all the bases there) are entitled to the same protection under the law as gay pygmy transgendered wiccans with speech impediments.

There's that, plus the concept of Thoughtcrime should be a little scary.

If federal licensing laws required disclosure of the ingredients in congressional legislation, here's what the label on this one would say: 90 grams of empty symbolism and 10 grams of needless duplication.

Yeah, but that's Ted Kennedy. 90 grams of symbolism and 10% last name.

Bonus video: During House deliberations over the hate-crimes bill, Rep. Alcee Hastings reads a list of fetishes that would be covered under the legislation.

I bet I know what Ted was thinking if he heard that speech. So many fetishes, so little time....

I don't give a rip what gays, lesbians, Wiccans, The Senate The Mentally Ill, or the citizens of Lichtenstein do, as long as they leave me alone and don't scare the horses.

Heck, if you folks want to have a fundraiser after I die, you can sell my corpse to a colony of necrophiliacs. I'm not going to care. (Not an original joke. Heard a standup comedian say it years ago, and it just came back to me.)

But when you give ANY group special protections that you don't give everyone else, you're simply giving ammunition to racists, bigots, and the like.

It's an incredibly stupid stunt, and it will be law within a year.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cooling, Warming, Ice Ages, the 1970's, Disco, Nixon, Cedric, Charts, Graphs, etc....

It's time to discuss Global Warming Climate Change.

My friend Cedric Katesby has sent me an assortment of videos intended to annhilate the commonly held view that in the 1970's, there was a widespread fear of another Ice Age.

Click here to see one of our earlier discussions. It goes on forever, and continues underneath various "Does God Cause Hurricanes To Hit New Orleans Because Of Gays And Lesbians" posts for about a year.

The video below features lots of Nixon, Travolta and Disco before getting down to bidness. Essentially, Cedric is concerned that I've had too much fun with the contradictory Time and Newsweek magazine covers like the ones above.

Cedric will correct me if I'm wrong, but I think we're supposed to view the Ice Age cover from the 1970's with extreme skepticism, and approach the "This Is Your Planet On SUV's" cover with the reverence we always hold for peer-reviewed research.

I've carried around a listing of some of the supposedly "neutral" articles in my briefcase for more than a year now, and have made it into the TCU library to look 'em up. Some of it is over my head, and some of it isn't.

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here is a chart showing estimated mean temperature from the last 5 million years, provided by these folks. (HT, of course, to Wikipedia.) See the uptick 3 to 3.5 million years ago?

Now that is some Climate Change.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dear Taxpayers, Thanks For The Forklifts ! ! !

Dear Taxpayers,
Thank you for the forklifts you so graciously purchased for me.
What? You don't remember buying me any forklifts???? Then let me explain....

I've always taken a lot of pride in finding good deals at auctions for my employer, Jukt Micronics.
Since we have multiple factories and warehouses, I've bought a lot of used forklifts over the years. With only one exception that I can remember, they all ran ok and were worth about what I paid for them.
They usually looked something like this, but with worse paint....

Then something came along called the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, a government program designed to increase sales of new forklifts manufactured by campaign contributors to reduce NOx emissions (Nitrogen Oxide). This plan, supervised and implemented by The Texas Railroad Commission, featured something called the Low Emission Propane Forklift Initiative Program.

In a nutshell, this program allowed us to scrap our old forklifts since they weren't environmentally friendly, and gave us a huge rebate on the purchase of new ones that supposedly meet the new emissions standards. If you look at the Propane Forklift Initiative Program link, you'll see that the average rebate is around $9,000.00.

I think we got 12 forklifts.

I've never paid $9,000.00 for a forklift in my life, much less received a $9,000.00 rebate on a new one that costs even more. So all I can say is "thank you". These things are great.

In my opinion, there's not a cow's fart per decade's difference in the emissions from the old ones and the new ones, but I'm still glad to have all these new puppies at my disposal. Instead of travelling to auctions, having to repair old forklifts, or, hell, instead of having to spend company money, you folks bought us these. And don't think I don't appreciate it.

Thanks to your good friends at the Texas Railroad Commission, I have a lot more free time.

I spend a lot of this free time Googling the term "Regulatory Capture" an economics term stating that “regulation is not about the public interest at all, but is a process, by which interest groups seek to promote their private interest ... Over time, regulatory agencies come to be dominated by the industries regulated.” In this case, the industry is forklift manufacturers.

If this post makes you angry, I'm glad. But it doesn't make you angry enough to stop voting for Republicans and Democrats, does it? You still won't vote for Libertarians, will you?

Good. Because I want some new semi-tractors next, and I want you to buy them.

Pics of old forklift came from here. Pics of new Yale forklifts came from here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek

I saw and enjoyed the new Star Trek movie this afternoon.
Some highlights:

James T. Kirk, as an Iowa 10-year old, bails out of a sportscar shortly before it goes into what looks like The Grand Canyon. In Iowa. Yes. Iowa.

I liked The Iowa Shipyards (it's a long, long story) and I liked Kirk's adventures on The Ice Planet Hoth an ice planet where he is intentionally marooned by Spock. He shoulda taken his light saber.

I suspect that we'll see some unfortunate fashion victims sporting Romulan-style tattoos in the next few months.

There is a major, gaping plothole involving existence of the planet Romulus. The movie also loses one grade point for having a self-congratulatory ending. (Self-congratulatory ending - a tiresome movie device where the heroes of a movie gather in front of a large group, and are applauded by the rest of the cast, many of whom nod approvingly. In this case, it happens in a courtroom/tribunal room. It makes weak-minded audience members want to applaud the heroes also. Old Vulcan mind trick, I think.)

I don't know why, but the other classic 1960's sci-fi series, "Lost In Space", made use of a similar time travel plot when it went to the big screen. With similar plotholes.

The movie has a great cast, some great fight and battle scenes, and several bucketloads of cheesy, over-the-top dialogue for the fans of the TV series.

Overall, I'd give it a high 7 or a low 8.

While I was looking around for other info on the movie, I found this gem of a parody. It started off as the Ashton Kutcher/Demi Moore pledge to serve our current president. Yeah, politicians are no longer the hired help. We're their servants.

Suzette Watkins

For my friend and neighbor Suzette Watkins, who tried valiantly to unseat Kathleen Hicks in yesterday's Fort Worth City Council election:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man (or woman) stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt

A few predictions:

The potholes will continue to multiply.
East Fort Worth will continue to decline.
District 8 will continue to be in last place in every category except mail-in ballots.

We have the government we deserve.