Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jimmy Hoffa wants me to do the right thing and join his union to protect the environment

From The Daily Caller:

President Barack Obama’s administration is using new “environmental standards” to force independent owner-operator truckers into becoming part of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a union that gave more than $2 million to Democrats in the last two election cycles.

By increasing the number of “green” requirements truckers have to comply with in order to get into some major United States ports — like Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland — the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are helping push previously independent truckers into companies, which then makes them vulnerable to unionization or, in many cases, forced to join a union.

I love, love, love the word "green". 

Please allow me to explain the word "green" as it was used in Annus Horribilis 2010. 
There are no environmentally friendly trucks, skyscrapers, houses, shopping bags, cars, kitty litters, or restaurants.  But if you are willing to employ favored companies, support favored programs, or manufacture products using materials and processes that favor certain political constituencies, you can be awarded the "green" label.  

Purchasing a Prius, eating at a restaurant that has napkins and tablecloths made of recycled tampons, or eating Locavore bananas grown in a greenhouse with a bigger carbon footprint than Al Gore's house - none of these things do diddly squat to protect the environment.  The costs and environmental impacts of greenie production are so ridiculous and so expensive that they defeat the purpose.  "Green" is nothing but marketing with a light sprinkling of Ultra-Wholesome Big Brotherism.
It makes you feel better and creates more power for Uncle Sam.   

As these aren’t administrative laws from the EPA per se, trucks that don’t fit this new “green” standard, which is meeting at least 2007 EPA emissions levels, are still allowed to operate throughout the country. But each of the major port authorities won’t let them in if they don’t fit the new environmental regulations, which would force many independent truckers out of business if they resist since many truckers depend on business from the ports to survive.

Most of this silliness is centered around the Port Of Long Beach, California.  Getting a truck in and out of California now requires about as much hassle, paperwork and graft as getting a Chinese orphan out of Beijing. 

My employer, Jukt Micronics, recently opened a West Coast warehouse.  West Coast, West Coast, West Coast....what city did we choose?  L.A.?  San Francisco?  Sacramento?  San Diego?  

Nope.  Phoenix, Arizona.  My employers are not silly people, despite being educated at Baylor University.  Nobody in his right mind would open something in California under current conditions. 

Alex Cherin, an attorney who represents a trucker advocacy group opposed to these forced unionization attempts, told The Daily Caller the Teamsters have been trying to get independent truckers classified as employees of a company for years because “under federal labor law, they [the Teamsters] cannot unionize independent contractors.”

“They [the Teamsters] see this as their window of opportunity,” Cherin said in a phone interview. “They know that most drivers want to stay independent contractors to keep their freedom, but that many can’t afford these new ‘green trucks.’ They want to piggyback their agenda onto an environmental initiative.”

There is is again.  The Baptists And Bootleggers thing.  In this case, the Teamsters are the Bootleggers and the Environmentalists are the Baptists.  Here's an explanation:

The bootleggers like prohibition because it gets rid of competitors. But a politican who wants to listen to the bootleggers needs a more high-minded cause to sell to the public. The Baptists give the politicians cover with the argument that drink is from the devil—it leads to social unrest, unemployment, higher social costs and so on.
If you buy into the idea that carbon emissions are evil, then no one other organization emits more evil than the Teamsters.  But they're claiming to fight evil by keeping the independent truckers out of the ports. 

You gotta love it. 

Cherin said the Teamsters has been pushing unionization more and more lately, and it has “really heated up with the ‘green trucks’ program.” He said that the air in Southern California is cleaner as a result of the program, but that this is really a unionizing effort disguised in a “green” initiative.

Americans for Limited Government spokesman Rick Manning said this effort is definitely driven by labor unions, especially since the leader of the Teamsters, Jimmy Hoffa, Jr., is pushing it.

Aw that makes it all better, doesn't it?  When I think of "wholesome", "green", and "little Disney bluebirds flitting about my recycling bin", I can't help but think of the Hoffas, and I hope that Jimmy Senior is now composting nicely.   

Hoffa, Jr., the current president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and son of the infamously “disappeared” union boss Jimmy Hoffa, alluded to his real intent with the program while advocating on behalf of the new “green truck” rules in a Huffington Post blog.

“We want the trucking companies to buy and maintain clean new trucks,” Hoffa, Jr. wrote in March 2010.

Oh for God's sake.  Just because the demon spawn of Jimmy Hoffa wants me to buy new trucks doesn't mean I should have any obligation to do so.  Folks, I can get your crap delivered from Point A to Point B at less cost with the tractors I already have. 

And please spare me any of the "green" bullshit that they're using to justify these power grabs.  If the American trucking industry were to allow you to run out of, say, toilet paper for three days?  You would burn Al Gore at the stake, and not think twice about the environmental impact of the grease fire.  
One little product shortage is all it would take to end this entire farce.  Lord hasten the day.     

“We also want them to pay their truck drivers a fair wage and the employment taxes that go with it."

If I can find a driver willing to haul a load for the amount that I'm willing to pay, then that's a "fair wage".  I don't need the rent-seeking bastard of Jimmy Hoffa telling me what is and isn't right. 

The trucking companies would prefer the federal government protect them from those obligations.”

Who died and left Jimmy Hoffa in charge of my obligations?  Do you have an obligation to pay your yard service, your baby sitter, the guy who changes your oil, your grocery store, your drug dealer, etc. a "fair wage"?  Yeah.  You pay them as little as the market will bear.  That's the fair wage  When they want more, you start checking out competitors.  That's what people do.  That's what Jimmy Hoffa, Barack Obama, Joehn Boehner, The Pope, and Oprah do.   

These new “green trucks” cost more than $100,000 and, to meet the “green” requirements, truckers have to join companies and, by extension, the Teamsters union.

That is stretching it just a little.  Truckers don't "have to join companies".  Yet.  But to meet the massive regulatory burden it's very difficult for an independent trucker to make it these days.  Go here to learn about Uncle Sam's latest regulatory brain fart called CSA 2010.   This thing makes driving across town the equivalent of a genius level Sudoku puzzle. 

The government has had to delay implementation of CSA 2010 for at least a year because they can't get their computer systems to work properly. 

The trucking industry, however, will be expected to comply immediately when the government is ready.  Lots of independent truckers will give up and go work for Jimmy Hoffa.  After all, he's the one who is getting what he paid for

That's the end of my rant.  I feel better now. 

The pics of the kickbacks came from here.  The hostility toward unions came from working at with the union guys at trade shows here.   The Daily Caller's main page can be found here.  My hostility toward the Teamsters evolved slowly.  It would've happened quicker except for the influence of my friend Frank.  A couple of the other Teamsters at Frank's company require three attempts to back up to a toilet, much less a freight dock.   

Friday, January 28, 2011

Stirring up crap so we can intervene later

In which the gentleman from Texas, thanks to a Wikileaks cable, explains how the U.S. signaled to Iraq that it was ok to invade Kuwait, made an Ultra-Villain out of Saddam, and spent a few trillion and killed several tens of thousands so they could redesign the Middle East. 

We're not being threatened by anybody that we haven't encouraged to threaten us. 
Let's bring the boys and girls back home.  Let 'em defend Laredo and Tucson and San Antonio. 

Dilbert on Government Stimulus Spending

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rand Paul's budget cuts - using a scalpel where a chainsaw would be appropriate

Rand Paul has proposed a fairly modest series of government spending cuts.  They total $500 billion dollars.  That's not even CLOSE to the amount we'll need to cut to get out of trouble, but here's a summary from his plan:

LEGISLATIVE BRANCH...............................$1,283,000,000. (23%)
Notes: The Government Printing Office is abolished.
JUDICIAL BRANCH......................................$2,434,000,000. (32%)
AGRICULTURE............................................$42,542,000,000. (30%)
The Agriculture Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Resources Conservation Service, and Foreign Agricultural Service are abolished. The Forest Service gets a $1.2 billion haircut.
COMMERCE...................................................$5,322,000,000. (54%)
National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is cut by $857,000,000.
DEFENSE.......................................................$47,500,000,000. (6.5%)
EDUCATION..................................................$78,000,000,000 (83%)
Only the Pell grant program survives.
ENERGY............................................................$44,200,000,000 (100%)
The Defense Department takes over all of Energy's remaining functions (nuclear waste, for example) and about $18 billion of its budget.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES..............$26,510,000,000. (26%)
Notes: FDA is cut by $230,000,000; Indian Health Service is cut by $650 million; CDC is cut by $1.17 billion; NIH by $5.8 billion.
HOMELAND SECURITY.................................$23,765,000,000. (43%)
Notes: Coast Guard is shifted to Defense. TSA's funds are cut by $900 million.
HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT....$53,100,000,000. (100%)
Notes: Completely eliminated. Veterans' housing programs are transferred to the VA
INTERIOR........................................................$10,934,000,000. (78%)
Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Indian Affairs are abolished.
JUSTICE.............................................................$9,057,000,000. (28%)
Note: Office of Justice Programs is abolished.
LABOR....................................................$2,803,000,000. (2%)
OSHA, MSHA, and the The Employment and Training Administration are spared all cuts (no cuts to unemployment benefits)
STATE...................................................................$20,321,000,000. (71%)
Note: Massive foreign aid cuts. All international commissions and organizations are defunded.
TRANSPORTATION............................................$42,810,000,000. (49%)
Notes: Amtrak is completely de-funded.
VETERANS’ AFFAIRS..........................................No cuts
CORPS OF ENGINEERS......................................$1,854,000,000. (27%)
EPA..............................................................$3,238,000,000. (29%)
NASA.........................................................................$4,500,000,000 (25%)
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION...............$4,723,000,000. (62%)
FCC...........................................................$2,150,000,000. (22%)
ABOLISH...............................................................$2,050,000,000. (100%)
(1) Affordable Housing Program.
(2) Commission on Fine Arts.
(3) Consumer Product Safety Commission.
(4) Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
(5) National Endowment for the Arts.
(6) National Endowment for the Humanities.
(7) State Justice Institute.
Collect delinquent taxes from Federal Employees........$3,000,000,000.
Freeze Federal Government employee pay...................$2,000,000,000.
Reduce Federal Government travel..............................$7,500,000,000.
Repeal Davis-Bacon..................................................... $6,000,000,000.
Prohibit union project labor agreements......................$2,000,000,000.
TARP repeal.................................................................$4,481,000,000.
Sell Federal Buildings..................................................$19,000,000,000.
Reduce Federal vehicle budget..........................................$600,000,000.

"Winning The Future" - The Logo for the State Of The Union speech

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My favorite contradiction in the State Of The Union speech

Here's my favorite contradiction from last night's State Of The Union speech. 
I woke up this morning laughing about it.
I gave it a passing smirk during the Michelob Ultra Marthon post last night, but I didn't have his exact text in front of me. 
Here goes: 

None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be, or where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn't know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution.

Well said, sir.  Well said. 
But then he gave us this little gem:

With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I'm asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don't know if you've noticed, but they're doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's.

Damn, I wish I had a crystal ball that worked as well as his. 

One other's becoming more and more popular to invent drinking games based on words and clutch-phrases that the Teleprompter Programmer has Obama say.  Reason magazine came up with a list that would've had the nation rolling on the floor with delirium tremens as soon as the speech ended.  Here's their list:

Here at Reason, we’ll be drinking to the following:
Reason went off the rails by the end of their list, but "competition" and "investment" alone would've been enough to send most of us into a coma. 

Hope everyone has a great, great day.  I'm going to go "invest" in two more espresso shots and get to work.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The State Of The Union, 2011, LiveBlogged

Ok, here we go. 

Laptop - Check
Dachshunds on couches - Check
Six pack of Michelob Ultra - Check

We're awaiting President Obama's entrance. 
John Boehner, of the Boehnk Boehlout fame, has taken the place of Nancy Pelosi this year.  We won't have to watch her jump up and applaud madly every time The Teleprompter Jesus sees a comma on the screen.  This is good, I guess. 

The House and the Senate are all sitting by their new play dates.  This is good, I guess.  No point in continuing the illusion that we have a multi-party system. 

She Whose Name Is Not Spoken is wearing a massive blue jacket that ends somewhere between her knees and the place where her Red Satan Tail attaches to the bottom of her spine.  We both need to cut back on the cholesterol, but I'm not on TV very often.   

They've applauded Obama, Boehner, and the empty chair in the Arizona delegation, set aside to mark the absence of wounded Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.  I hope he doesn't force any Oprah moments about the shooting. 

Obama begins by reminding us of how the assassination attempt on Giffords reminded us that we are all part of one family.  We are still bound together as One People. 
This is true.  We are a family.  Unfortunately, we have taken in a bunch of alcoholic uncles, brothers-in-law, and cousins with a long, long history of irresponsibility with Dad's credit cards.  The Libertarians want to do something about the problem, but they're considered "extreme". 

He's listed some signs that the economy is improving.  But we have to take on some challenges..... God help us, get ready.  We have challenges.  Cover you wallets, lock up your daughters, and bury the silverware in the back yard. 

Now he's talking about how technology and globalization are changing the world.  China and India are figuring things out.  China is now the home of the world's largest solar research facility.  (Get ready for a shot o' stimulus in the solar research field.  Congratulations, guys !)

"The future is ours to win.  We can't just stand still," he says, followed by a Kennedy quote.  "We need to our-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world."  That gets him a standing-O. 

Here's how we're gonna get there:

1) Encourage American Innovation.  "None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be, or where the jobs will come from."  But that didn't stop us from throwing 3/4 of a trillion away while trying to make lucky guesses.  I wish he could've had that insight in 2009. 

"This is our Sputnik moment."  We're going to "invest" in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology. 

(Congratulations to all in the biomedical, computuer, and green bullshit fields !  You're getting some more stimulus.  Good job, guys.) 

"We've begun to re-invent our energy policy.  We're not just handing out money; we're issuing a challenge." 

He really did say that.  My god, my god, he really did say that.  Raise your hand if you want some challenge. 

We're going to be the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. 

He's going to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies.  Instead of subsidizing yesterdays energy, let's "invest" in tomorrow's." 

Meet the New Boss, same as the Old Boss.  Yesterdays pork is tomorrow's investment. 

2) We have to win the race to educate our kids.   I'm not even listening to what this goober says any more on this subject.  This is the man who shut down the only Federal education program with a great track record - the Washington D.C. school voucher program. 

This man who put his own kids into a private academy, this man who wouldn't dream of putting his own daughters into a public school, this man refused to give low income children the same privilege. 

Giving people a choice is the greatest tool for improving anything.  There is no better way to instantly reward success and punish failure. 
The D.C. voucher program was the only Federal program that Barack Obama has ever seen that he didn't like. 

3) Rebuilding America - High speed rail and high speed internet. 
We're going to continue building railroads to Bill Clinton's bridge to nowhere. 

He's going off into something about high-speed rail.  The best source on the boondoggle that is high-speed rail is Randal O'Toole of the Cato Institute.  I suspect that his reaction to this speech will be worth checking tomorrow.  Go here.  It will be worth reading when O'Toole gets around to it. 

We have to knock down barriers to the success of businesses.  He acknowledges that we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world.  He's asking that we simplify the system and get rid of the loopholes.  Go here for a decent summary of how it would work.  The biggest problem is that the House and Senate earn their contributions by selling exemptions to the tax code.......

To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I've ordered a review of government regulations.  When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them.  The biggest problem with this is that the House and the Senate earn their contributions by selling exemptions to these regulations.  Good luck with that, Barry ! 

He just acknowledged that the Healthcare law is an abortion.  There are things that need to be fixed.  He's not willing to go back to the days of insurance companies turning away people with pre-existing conditions.  If your house has burned down, you can still get on an insurance plan, and that company will have to rebuild your home.  Or something like that. 

4) We have to make sure that we aren't buried under a mountain of debt.  We have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. 

Wait a damn minute, Barry, what about steps 1-3 ?  How you gonna reconcile with #4 with all of that stuff? 

We're going to have a domestic spending freeze for the next five years. 

This is like going through the all-you-can-eat buffet three times, and deciding to lose weight by eating at that high level, BUT NO MORE.  NO MORE THAN THAT.  FOUR TIMES THROUGH THE BUFFET WOULD BE TOO TOO MANY.  Restraint is the key word here. 

We're going to have to cut some domestic and defense spending.  We're going to have to look at Medicare and Medicaid.  We're going to have to strengthen Social Security for future generations. 

If my daughter collects Social Security, I'll eat the lining out of my coffin.  That's a promise. 

We're going to work to rebuild people's faith in the institution of government.  Because you deserve to know how and where your tax dollars are spent, you'll be able to go to a website for the first time in history. 

Because this site for tracking the stimulus spending worked so well....

He just told a throwaway lie about vetoing any bill with earmarks in it.  I didn't catch it word for word, but he's not going to veto any bills with earmarks in them.  He was lying.  You heard it here first. 

"The Iraq was is coming to and end." 
"We're responding with the strength of our communities." 
"This July, we will begin to bring our troops home."
"Yes, we know that some of them are gay.  Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love." 

That's a good line, and a good policy.  But the Joint Chiefs Of Staff now look like they're trying to collectively pass a peach pit. 

"This is the place where you can make it if you try."
"This is the place where anything is possible."
"This dream is why a working class kid from Scranton is sitting behind me." 
"This is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his Cincinatti bar can preside as Speaker Of The House in the greatest nation on earth." 

What is all this reminding me of ? What is Obama invoking here? Ah ! I've got it !
Here's some Liza Minelli:

The guy whose company got the miners out of the Chilean mine just got a standing-O.

We dare to dream.  That's how we'll win the future.  We dream big things.  Our destiny remains our choice. 
Our jouney goes foward, and the State Of Our Union is strong, and may God bless the United States Of America. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

On Government Force

Via Radley Balko, here's an editorial by A. Barton Hinkle of the Richmond Times-Dispatch on the Tucson shootings.

The frenzy surrounding Jared Loughner's rampage in Tucson this month has finally died down. As tempers cool, perhaps distance could turn reflection toward some bigger questions. Many Republicans and Democrats have lamented the frequency of violent rhetoric in politics. Fewer seem to have regrets about the actual use of violence itself.

I'm not referring here to death threats, terrorism, assassination attempts, and similar heinous acts. Nobody considers those violent deeds by non-state actors legitimate. But what about violence by the state? Liberals and conservatives alike often embrace it as a means to an end they desire.

Government, as Max Weber famously put it, is distinguished from other social organizations by its claim to a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. A church or club might invite you to join, but cannot conscript you as government can. A developer cannot take your property by eminent domain; only government can. Acme might try to persuade you to buy widgets through advertising. A gay-rights group might try to coerce Acme to adopt gay-friendly personnel policies by organizing a boycott of Acme's products. But Acme cannot make you buy widgets at the point of a gun, and gay-rights groups cannot change Acme's employee policies by kidnapping the CEO's daughter.

Acme must rely on your consenting however grudgingly to buy its widgets, and the rights group must rely on other people consenting to join their boycott. Only the government can make you buy its products on pain of imprisonment. (Just ask actor Wesley Snipes, currently doing a three-year stretch for tax evasion.) Only government can force you to "boycott" products it declares off-limits, such as heroin, and arrest you if you don't.

The debate over the size and scope of government, then, is an argument over when to use violence to change things and circumstances consensual activity cannot. Liberals (broadly speaking) find inequality odious and think the government should use force in the economic arena by redistributing wealth but leave individuals alone in matters of personal morality, such as whom they have sex with. Conservatives (broadly speaking) are less troubled by inequality and disdain the redistributive uses of government power. But social conservatives are outraged by immorality, as they define it, and therefore think the state should use the threat of violence to enforce personal moral codes by banning prostitution, homosexual sodomy, and the like.

Then there are a small minority of diehard libertarians who would like to minimize government involvement in both arenas, and a small minority of diehard communitarians who think government should dictate behavior of every stripe.

Admittedly, this oversimplifies the issue. It ignores some big questions such as whether people tacitly consent to being governed. It ignores the many exceptions to the general rule, such as conservative Republican support for upward redistribution through corporate welfare. And it is open to several criticisms.

Here's one: A liberal might say that if Acme is the only grocery store in town, then the townsfolk are hardly free to choose whether to shop at Acme's Food Store, because they have to eat. So they should be able to force Acme not to price-gouge. But there is a difference between a lack of options and the use of violence, and that difference seems more than slight.

I've got to disagree with Mr. Hinkle on that one.... One of the biggest economic fallacies out there is the monopolist's ability to price-gouge.  Unless the government is helping enforce a monopoly, the quickest way to end a monopoly is through price-gouging. 

Liberals also sometimes speak glowingly of collective action. They find a nobility in the spirit of community and the notion of people working together to achieve common aims. Everyone should. From corner churches to corporate suites, voluntary social groups have accomplished great marvels. Adding coercion to the mix, though, seems to fatally undermine the community spirit.

Some conservatives also speak glowingly about the common good and argue that their policies alone will advance it. But again, forcing people to embrace those policies by threatening them with imprisonment is an admission that the people who are being forced don't think the policy is good, at least for them. A gay man, for instance, might strongly disagree that forbidding physical intimacy between gay men advances the general welfare.

Conservatives could reply that the homosexual resembles a willful child who simply does not know what is good for him (a remarkably Marxist suggestion of false consciousness) and therefore should have the good imposed on him by force. Or they could say the homosexual's own best interest does not serve the common good. But then who belongs to the common, and who doesn't?

Force is sometimes necessary. We must have police and courts and national defense and environmental protection and so on. But government at all levels does much more nowadays than is strictly necessary, because both liberals and conservatives delight in using it to make other people do what they would not do through mutual consent.

In the wake of the butchery in Tucson, it has been nice to hear many people say we should not speak so well of violence. It would be even nicer to hear more say we should not vote for it quite so often, either.

Amen, Amen, Amen. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Quote of the day from Robert Heinlein

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”

- Robert Heinlein