Saturday, December 20, 2008

A proposal for political celibacy

If the people at The Politico are to be believed, the President's daughter and the governor's son are both lobbying to be appointed to the New York senate seat of the President's wife, but no one knows who the New York Secretary of State's son will appoint to the position, since the Secretary of The Interior's son is pushing hard for the candidacy of the judge's son.

Got that? No? Hit the link above and get back to me.

We've seen this before. When the Church was one of the dominant political powers in Europe, Pope Innocent II, in the year 1139, declared all priestly marriages to be null and void. Getting the kids out of the family business was the only way to ensure that all Church property would remain Church property. They were getting looted.

I propose that New York state do the same. Until the Kennedys, Cuomos, Clintons, Pattersons (ahem...), Ickes, and other prominent political families stop having political babies, those families are going to continue their deathgrip on the Democrat party.

Otherwise, they could wind up like the Republicans in the last election cycle, where the admiral's son defeated the Michigan governor's son to win the nomination to replace President #41's son, only to be defeated by the Kenyan Government Economist's son.

Priestly Celibacy got the job done for the Church.

Can a requirement of Political Celibacy be very far off?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery

During the last couple of months, people have been asking me what happened to my Serial Commenter and arch-nemesis, Fembuttx.

Her sudden disappearance was widely discussed during the last two Libertarian meetups that I attended. I got emails asking if she had died, or if I'd shot her. A group in a black van from "CSI Eastside" showed up in my back yard and prodded every square foot of it with a methane probe. They confiscated my shovel. Two of my guns were taken away for ballistics analysis.

For readers who are new to this site, here's the story. Whenever I wrote about politics, regulations, free speech, 2nd amendment issues, or global warming/cooling/dimming, Fembuttx would turn the comment field into a discussion of her bedroom acrobatics. (I say "her", although no one really knows the true identity of the Fembutt.)
It lasted for about 6 months. And then she disappeared.

"Fembuttx is dead. Long live Fembuttx !" we all said. (Well, not all of us. But you get the picture.)

Thanks to my friend Ray, I've now learned that Fembuttx lives. Not just in our memories, but online.

The name of her site? The Whited Sepulchres. (Note the plural)

Check out the "About Me' part of her Blogspot Profile. (Before you go there, make sure you aren't drinking anything. Otherwise you'll snort liquid all over your screen.)
I would NEVER encourage this, but wouldn't it be funny if lots of libertarians went over there and left irrelevant comments about The Federal Reserve, Systemic Inflation, Regulatory Over-reach, The 2nd Amendment, and Ron Paul?

Warning: this site is for immature audiences only !

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Card Check vs. Secret Ballots

A monopoly is a monopoly is a monopoly.
It doesn't matter if the monopoly is in sugar, corn, or computer operating systems. Monopolies are harmful. They harm consumers by preventing lower-priced goods from entering the market. (Do a bit o' Googling on the words "Sugar" and "Fanjul".)
It doesn't even matter if monopolies are related to labor. Labor unions are monopolies. The only way they can be effective? Keep out everyone who is willing to do the job for less. (Do a bit o' Googling on the words "Hoffa" and "Teamsters".)

Back during the campaign season, [the President-elect] vowed that he would pass something called Card Check:

EFCA (The hilariously named Employee Free Choice Act, AKA Card Check) requires employers to recognize a union— without an election—once organizers collect cards from a majority of employees. Indeed, the act states that once the union submits signatures from over 50 percent of the employees to the NLRB, it must certify the union without an election. Under EFCA, holding a secret ballot election once unions collect cards from a majority of workers would become illegal.
Additionally, a card-check–only recognition pro­cess strips workers of their privacy. Polls show that most Americans strongly oppose denying workers the privacy of the voting booth when deciding whether to join a union. In response to such criti­cism, unions now argue that EFCA does not end secret ballot elections. Instead, proponents argue that EFCA gives workers the choice between orga­nizing using public card-check or private elections.

Unions make this claim because union organiz­ers can call for an organizing election after cards have been signed by at least 30 percent of employ­ees. Since card-check recognition under EFCA occurs after organizers submit cards signed by a majority of workers, secret ballot elections could— in theory—occur under EFCA if organizers submit­ted cards signed by 30 to 50 percent of workers.
In practice this scenario will not happen. Noth­ing in the legislation gives workers any control over what organizing method unions use. That decision is left to union organizers. Organized labor's well-documented preference for card-check recognition makes it clear that EFCA effectively eliminates secret ballot elections.

In other words, union organizers have a choice between going the Secret Ballot Route, or the Card Check Route. Here's why:

Those are almost the EXACT words I heard from a Teamster driver when we were discussing this issue last week. The absence of secret ballot allows fear, intimidation, and peer pressure to enter the picture, a fact that is conspicuously absent from most of the mainstream media coverage of Card Check.

Organizers can simply go from employee to employee with either a petition or cards. They can get the employee drunk. They can tell the employee that he's signing a football betting pool. They can do whatever is necessary to get a signature on that document. Once they hit the magic 51 %, it's over. No secret ballot. No right to privacy.

If one political party or the other were to advocate eliminating secret ballots in general political elections? You would've heard a lot more about the right to privacy. Whether it's fair or not, unions gave more than 80 million dollars in support of the [President-elect] so they could get this card check thing put into play, and they're going to want something for their money.

But enough about Card Check.

There are two ways to move large quantities of large freight. Truckload (TL) and Less-Than-Truckload (LTL). Truckload carriers usually carry large amounts of freight directly from point A to point B. The freight usually isn't unloaded or transferred from trailer to trailer. The driver who picks the stuff up is often the one who delivers it to the final destination. Truckload carriers are more difficult for unions to organize, simply because One Driver in One Truck doesn't require much of a supporting cast and doesn't spend much time socializing with the breakroom lawyers at the freight dock.
LTL freight is picked up in smaller quantitites. One driver will often drive around the same area every day, gathering as much freight as possible from multiple shipping locations. He then delivers it to a central terminal, where it is sorted by state/zip code, and put onto other trucks going in that same general direction. All of that freight moves to the next "break bulk" terminal, where it is sorted one more time by destination. One pallet of merchandise might be on 6 different trucks if it had to go from Key West to Seattle. Large numbers of LTL employees work in the same location every day. They clock in and clock out, unlike their TL counterparts. Therefore, they've been much easier for the unions to take over.

As I understand it, almost all LTL carriers were once organized by The Teamsters Union. Therefore, most of them are now out of business.

But their former employees are still entitled to payments from The Teamsters' Pension Fund. (For an insane amount of info on this, read The Teamsters, by Stephen Brill.)

The U.S. is left with four LTL carriers burdened with the blessings of Teamster drivers: Yellow, Roadway, USF, and ABF.
Yellow Freight purchased Roadway in 2003. Then they bought USF. (Or maybe they did it earlier. I've always had difficulty getting USF to show up on time, and don't use them if I can help it.) The new Yellow/Roadway/USF conglomerate is called YRC Worldwide, and they're having issues. They're having to re-negotiate their Teamsters contract.

Here's Bill Zollars, president of YRC Worldwide: "This modification would address our operating cost structure, which is higher than a number of companies in our industry, due primarily to pension plan funding obligations. Funding pensions for our own Teamsters employees is affordable; however, paying for all the retirees and former employees of failed companies as required under our current plans makes us less competitive."
While working on a longer-term solution to this issue, YRC Worldwide is seeking immediate cost savings through proposed changes for the remainder of the contract including:

-- 10 percent reduction in all wages paid, inclusive of scheduled
-- Suspension of Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA)

In exchange, Teamsters employees would receive a 15 percent ownership stake in YRC Worldwide allowing them to share in future company performance through stock price appreciation. The details of this plan are still being finalized. Contributions to the health, welfare and pension plans would continue as previously negotiated.

Why are The Teamsters being so accomodating to YRC Worldwide? Because if YRC goes belly up, that leaves ABF as the only LTL carrier paying money into the pension fund. The Teamsters pension fund is just like Social Security, the Bernie Madoff ripoffs, or any other Ponzi scheme. The continued health of the fund relies on finding new suckers to contribute money to the fund.

So, according to my Teamster buddy, they'll soon be voting on whether or not to take this pay cut in exchange for a 15% share of YRC Worldwide. Here's the Teamsters For A Democratic Union website:

The final decision will be made by YRC Teamsters, because Article 12, Section 2 of the IBT Constitution requires a secret-ballot vote to amend the national contract.

What ???

The final decision will be made by YRC Teamsters, because Article 12, Section 2 of the IBT Constitution requires a secret-ballot vote to amend the national contract.

Did that say "secret ballot vote"? What ??? Surely that's a typo. Nope. Here's a blog called The Union Label, regarding a recent Teamster publication:

On the inside back-cover, in a special “Election Supervisor’s Report to IBT Members,” Richard W. Mark explains that “Every member has the right to vote their own ballot in secret” in the upcoming election of union leaders. Yet on Page 28, the headline boasts: “Winning With Card-Check.”

So.... James Hoffa Jr., the son of the still-absent Jimmy Hoffa Sr., is presently in charge of The Teamsters. Why would a Hoffa supporter or opponent insist on the anonymity of a secret ballot?

Sounds like they could use some Card Check.

Cartoon from RedPlanetCartoons.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Merry Christmas (a little early)

I'm going on a Christmas vacation in a few days, and wanted to get this one out early. This picture seems to fit the year.

I hope everyone has a great Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Winter Solstice, etc.

One more crack in the glass ceiling

John F. Kennedy's daughter might be appointed to fill the Senate seat vacated by Bill Clinton's wife.

(There might be a better way to phrase that. But seriously, are there any New Yorkers who want to be represented by someone who brings more to the table than name recognition? Someone who has been elected to something just once? To the East Greenbush, NY school board? Or the Genesee Falls City Council?)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Buying Locally Grown - No matter how far you have to drive

I don't go out looking for this stuff. emails it to me every morning.....

How I Seduced My Neighbors Into Going Green - By James Glave
I didn't want to be an eco-jerk. So I consulted a "global warming negotiator." That's when the fun began.

James Glave is a good writer. Lives in British Colombia. He's a good photographer (here's his Flickr photostream). But he apparently developed an obsession with the CO2 emissions required to power his neighbor's yard lighting.

Five of them (floodlights) were mounted across the front of his house. I had not inspected them up close but each likely contained a 65-watt incandescent bulb. As far as I could discern, they illuminated his front yard for no particular reason..... But those five beacons across the way were still doing atmospheric damage. I had already done the math on what we might delicately call my neighbor's nocturnal emissions, and as best as I could calculate, the lamps were kicking up something in the range of 95 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

In the grand scheme of things, that's atmospheric chump change. It is the equivalent of about three return trips to Grandma's house in my father-in-law's hand-me-down Lexus SUV, and I easily find ways to justify those excursions. Hell, I probably endanger more polar bears just by vacuuming the house and doing my laundry, which amasses around my house in great fuzzy piles like Tribbles on the Starship Enterprise.

It was unfair of me to pick on my neighbor, whom I shall call David. But there was something about his all-night Light Show for Nobody that I couldn't quite keep my mouth shut about. In my head, his lamps had come to symbolize all the little things we all could be doing to save ourselves from extinction if we only knew better. If each of us took all the baby steps to overcome unconscious bad habits we didn't even know we had, we could dial back the planetary thermostat. We could unleash staggeringly good changes.

James, to his eternal credit, doesn't want to be an eco-jerk. He admits that he can't bring too much righteous indignation to bear on the outrage in his neighbor's yard, since JAMES IS RUNNING AROUND TOWN IN A LEXUS SUV. (I'm betting that the neighbor has a bigger house, bigger yard, and makes the most money. The people of my acquaintance who want "Change" generally want The Change to apply mostly to those who are one or two notches up the food chain.... I could be wrong.)

But how does one bring neighbors into a state of SUV-driving, yet floodlight extinguishing grace without being offensive and causing them to rebel against The One True Faith?

You bring in a consultant. Yes, a consultant, from Futerra Sustainability Communications. You can read that middle part yourself. The idea of bringing in a damn consultant to get yer damn neighbor to turn off his damn floodlights is too much for me to damn copy. Sorry. Anyway, the consultant, after charging him God Knows What for her services, suggests that James have a neighborhood "green" party. Plus, she says, "Food Helps".

"Food helps," said (the consultant). "Having food and alcohol at a meeting really helps. If you offer a really nice evening, maybe trying a whole load of local foods, and they have eaten your food and drunk your wine, then -- and only then -- do you introduce the idea of changing habits as a group. You could approach it as a challenge to the next town over. But however you approach it, wait until they have eaten your food and drunk your wine. Then they'll feel beholden to you."

If you've read this far, I hate to tell you this, but this is just the introduction. All of that was merely my preliminary throat-clearing, for which I apologize. Now I can get to the point. James lives in British Colombia, and is determined to serve nothing but food produced in British Colombia.


I wanted to serve a local dinner. Of course, winter is about the worst time to try such a stunt. But Townsend had told me to make my neighbors comfortable, show them a good time. So I trucked down to my local Whole Foods and asked the butcher for some organic beef that was as regional as possible, within reason.
"All of our beef comes from an open-range ranch in British Columbia," she said, offering me a pamphlet with a picture of what looked like an honest-to-God cowboy on the front. The steer pictured inside looked happy enough; a few dozen of them browsed in a grassy field.
"I'd like to do a roast for about eight people. What are my options?"
"The prime rib is our best cut, lots of marble in the meat," she replied. "That would be very tender, really nice."
"How much?"
"Eight people?" She did the math. "You're looking at about $85."
I like my neighbors, but not that much. "What are my other options?"
"Chuck roast is a leaner cut," she explained. "But it'll be very nice if you cook it for a long time at a low heat."
Sounds easy enough. And at $26, I could afford to buy it, with enough left over for hundred-mile-compliant carrots.

(For the uninitiated, for something to be 100 mile compliant, it has to be grown within 100 miles of the store.)
"Keep a lid on it, keep it moist," she instructed, as she handed it (the roast) over. "You'll do well with that."
Everything in the Whole Foods vegetable section was from California, so I dialed Capers, a natural-foods market a couple miles down the street that I knew specialized in local produce. "We've got Jerusalem artichokes and celery root," the produce manager offered. "Not too much else from around here at this time of year. Everything is sort of finished."
I had no idea what to do with either. "I'll be right over," I said.
Saturday rolled around. I couldn't quite remember, but I think the butcher instructed me to cook the beef for four or five hours at 275 degrees. Dinner was at 7 p.m. I carefully installed my precious planet-friendly roast on the oven's middle rack early in the afternoon. I placed it under a tent of foil with some water in the pan. A couple of hours later, as delicious aromas filled the kitchen, it was time to check on the meat's progress toward perfection. I extracted the evening's piece de resistance, pulled back the foil, and stuck my friend chuck with a meat thermometer.
Hope turned to dread as the red needle instantly zoomed past "beef-rare," "beef-medium," and "beef-well." Like a runaway boxcar, the thermometer's pointer only picked up speed from there. It moved onto other animals, rocketing right through "lamb" and barely pausing at "poultry." Finally, the gauge ran out of livestock options altogether and, after pulling a double-jointed full rotation, came to rest off the scale, in an unmarked zone that should properly be labeled tanned goods.
In panic, I reached for my mobile and dialed Beef 911. My wife, Elle, answered, and after listening to me describe the symptoms, pronounced the roast dead over the phone. "It's lunch meat," she said, clearly disgusted with me. "Go get something else and start over."
I hopped in the SUV and drove to my island's gourmet butcher shop. There I shelled out $60 for a prime rib roast from Alberta, for eight people, proving once again that when it comes to sustainable consumption, you can always do it almost right the second time -- for more than what it would've cost you from the beginning.

The meal was a success. Everyone had a great time. The neighbor voluntarily turned off his prison-yard floodlights.

But at what cost? In parts of this essay, James is poking fun at his own inefficiency. In other parts, I think he's unknowningly "showing" more than he's "telling".

For instance, what are the environmental implications of cooking a roast for a long, long, long time over low heat, as compared to yard floodlights? Especially when you could've served something pre-cooked, like Spam?

Second, James was at the O So Politically Correct Whole Foods Market, but their produce was from shipped in from Politically Incorrect California. The fact that the California produce was grown, harvested, shipped, and unloaded in one of the most efficient processes devised by humans doesn't matter. It's not "local". So James admits in an essay read by millions of people on, he admits, without a gun pointed at his head, he declares that he hopped in an SUV that weighs somewhere between 2,000 and 8,00 pounds and uses that thing to drive his righteous butt A COUPLE OF MILES DOWN THE STREET, and I assume A COUPLE OF MILES BACK so he can do the right thing and buy local produce. The freight costs on shipping an identical amount of produce in bulk shipping containers from Taiwan to British Columbia would be lower than that.

Jesus Christ Almighty.

Then you get into the multiple trips for the meat, which are merely funny.

So here's my question: I don't know how much of this is James poking fun at his environmentalist pretensions, and how much of this is cluelessness. I honestly don't.

Because every conversation that I have with a locavore makes me think that they don't have any idea how to look at true freight and shipping costs.

There's little or no difference between the James Glave comedy of errors and the locavore behavior that I see every day. They insist on locally grown food, and don't care how far they have to drive to get it.



On a slightly related note, here's something from "Environmental Science And Technology"

The researchers looked at the total life cycle of greenhouse gases emitted to produce the food consumed by an average American household. It turns out that transportation as a whole is not the main offender. It accounts for about 11 percent of those food-related emissions, with only 4 percent in the final delivery stage from producer to retailer. Agricultural and production practices are responsible for almost all the rest.

Here's a chart of how "all the rest" breaks out:

Enjoy the guilt. Or eat whatever you want to eat at the lowest price possible. You're probably wasting less resources that way.

The Preacher's Story

This is The Preacher's Story, from

It's one of the most brutally honest Loss Of Faith stories I've ever read. I hope you'll read it, and then get back to me.

This guy recently spoke at my own Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX.

If you've ever felt the same way as the guy in The Preacher's Story link, come see us.

Speaking of what to do with changing faith....Starting January 4th, we're going to be reading Bishop John Shelby Spong's "Why Christianity Must Change Or Die" at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth. Every Sunday mornings in January at 9:30 a.m., room 306, at 305 West Broadway, Fort Worth TX.

Check out the Spong link too. Look at the customer reviews. 99 of the reviewers give the book 5 stars, and 63 people give it only one star. Read a few of each variety (you can click on the star chart to read only the Raves or only the Rotten Tomatoes). Ask yourself what kind of people you'd want to hang out with for an hour on Sunday morning, and then come see us.

The Ultimate Property Right

Let's put on our hip boots and wade into The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Here's an excerpt from their article on Libertarianism:

Libertarianism holds that agents are, at least initially, full self-owners. Agents are (moral) full self-owners in that they morally own themselves in just the same way that they can morally fully own inanimate objects.

Wrap your head around that sentence, and you'll understand why hard core Libertarians are fanatical about abolishing the draft, drug law reform, gay rights, and so forth. If I belong to myself, then what happens to me is no one's business but my own.

Andrew Ian Dodge has reminded me of another self-ownership issue that doesn't get as much publicity as it did back in the days of Dr. Kevorkian.....
(I corresponded with Andrew back when he merely ran a site called Dodgeblogium. That's the site for "bloggers who combine a taste for heavy metal music with a taste for heavy metal politics". Now he has his own Pajamas Media page, where he posts alongside bow-tie wearing conservatives. You've GOT to click both of those links. I love the internet.)

Ok, back to the topic..... Andrew raises the issue of Physician-Assisted Suicide. And whether there is any possible reason to broadcast it on television.

....This time around, controversy has been raging for weeks after Sky Television decided to air the actual death of a man from Harrowgate, North Yorkshire, as he prepared to die at a suicide clinic called Dignitas in Switzerland. Dignitas has seen several British citizens use its services to end painful and debilitating lives, but this was the first time one of their procedures was actually broadcast on British television.
Sky (Rupert Murdoch’s news outlet in Britain) produced a rather moving piece where tehe sufferer himself, Craig Ewert,
makes the case for his ability to take his own life to save himself suffering. He even, between gasps of oxygen, manages to pose some interesting questions to the Christian opponents of the procedure.

Suicide has been decriminalized in Britain, simply because

.....Prosecuting a dead person seems to be seen as rather unreasonable, not to mention rather difficult, although such trials have occurred in the country’s past. The problem boils down to the law which threatens those who help facilitate the act with punishment of up to 14 years in prison.

Imagine intolerable pain, going on for hours, days, and months. But no, you must suffer. Mustn't set a bad example for everyone else. Check out the comments on Andrew's Pajama's Media post. This one in particular:

This is horrible!!!! Suicide is murder of one’s self. Common sense and at least minimal background in Christianity’s 10 Commandments gives us the answer: THOU SHALT NOT KILL! Suicide is killing of one’s self. Furthermore, to be televised while committing such a crime, is to be an exhabitionalist, while one cruel enough to watch is mentally sick! If someone is stupid enough to kill him/herself, don’t drag others into your selfishness and self-pity.
Dec 14, 2008 - 11:22 am

The point of the broadcast was for Craig Ewert to raise questions about his own right to die, and for others to see what a Physician-Assisted Suicide is like.

Are there are other things we do as a society that should be broadcast for the same reasons? Would some of us be so gung-ho about executions if we had to watch it happen, just once?
How about a late-term abortion? Does anyone think that watching one of those might change polling data?