Friday, January 08, 2010

Global Warming, Indeed

This weather we're having must be the effects of global warming. From CNN:
Floridians braced for a second surge of Arctic air that promised to dip well into the southern parts of the state. Key West already set a record low temperature on Thursday, bottoming out at 47 degrees -- shattering the previous low set back in 1897. Temperatures on Sunday and Monday are expected to be in the low-to-mid-40s.

Here I was expecting Florida to submerge under the rising oceans. Maybe that investment in real estate in rural Georgia was a hasty move.

Why The Fight?

Interesting. Democrats have been pushing for heavy taxes on estates, so it is a curiosity that Mel Simon's estate is being fought over in the courts. Per the Star:
One of Simon's daughters, Deborah J. Simon, is accusing her father's second wife, Bren, of coercing her ill husband to sign a new estate plan a few months before his death, while he was gravely ill and dependent on her for care.

The new estate plan increased Bren Simon's share of the estate by hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a complaint filed by Deborah Simon in Hamilton Superior Court. Meanwhile, the change essentially eliminates all charitable donations and dramatically reduces the inheritances of Deborah and her two siblings, the complaint alleges.

Bren's a good Democrat. She should be pleased to see unearned wealth handed over to the omnipotent state. Government knows best what to do with money, after all. Tax those rich people as they pass! Heavily!

Trying To Understand Union Mentality

First off, I've never belonged to a union. I've had a number of jobs, mostly private sector, one public sector. I've always made my deal directly with the employer. We negotiated terms, we agreed to terms, I worked under the terms, we both held up our respective ends of the bargain.

Collective bargaining is a mystery to me. I've never had someone negotiate for me, and I've never tied my lot to someone else. Most unions do just that. The individual is represented in a collective negotiation, and they are paid by seniority. Been here 10 years? You get more than the rookie.

Well, what if the rookie performs better than the 10-year veteran? Why would I be happy, as the rookie, to observe that I do better work, and/or produce more, than the guy who gets more money for lower quality work, and/or less output? Easy: I wouldn't be happy.

I think of things like this when I think of big union employers. It comes to mind when I think of auto manufacturers or steel plants. I thought of it again when I read a letter to the Indy Star regarding the construction of the new Wishard hospital downtown.
When the leaders of Wishard Hospital brought forward a massive renovation plan, all of the appeal was for this to be an all-community effort. The entire community was asked to support this by their votes "confirming our community's commitment to the New Wishard." Matt Gutwein, CEO of the Health and Hospital Corp., on a number of occasions in public meetings to rally community support touted inclusiveness of all community sectors as important to the success of this project.

Now that actual construction documents are being distributed, we find a much different story. We are finding out that a large sector of the construction industry -- nonunion contractors and nonunion construction workers -- will essentially be locked out from participating due to a backroom deal with the local big labor bosses.

These deals are always fascinating to me. The bidding process in government jobs always seems inherently corrupt. Deals are made that exclude non-union builders, and someone complains. Deals are made the include non-union builders, and the union complains. Here's an idea: Why not use the best builders available?

So, back to my thoughts about relative merit. If I'm a top rate carpenter, and I'm 8 years in, putting me in the upper end of the lower third of workers, behind the 15- and 20-year guys, why would I stand for it? If I'm good, I want to be paid accordingly. Isn't three going to be some righteous grumbling going on?

Which begs, how good is the work going to be really, in this kind of scenario?

Unions represent all kinds of employees. Obviously, this kind of scheme doesn't apply to the NFL or Major League Baseball. A highly touted rookie who hasn't done anything can score a far greater deal than a 10-year utility infielder. But this does apply to police and fire, autoworkers and many others.

I suspect there is something about differences of personality, where I couldn't tolerate such a scenario, yet others are very happy with it. Thoughts?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Stewart on Yemen

Jon Stewart gets the futility of the quagmire-in-waiting that is Yemen. Will Bush-Obama get it?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'Terror 2.0 by Yemen - Sad Libs
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(h/t: Dan Drexler)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

State Legislator Mailings

Ah, first of the year, and we get our franked propaganda home delivered by our State Reps and State Senators. True to form, State Rep Kathy Richardson and State Senator Luke Kenley have seen to it that my mailbox was stuffed just a little more tightly than usual, with their spiels and finger-in-the-air questionnaires.

I'll break down each in upcoming posts, but was first drawn to Kenley's spiel.
Hoosier jobs and the economy are on everyone's mind as state lawmakers begin the 2010 session.

With declining tax revenues, legislators will avoid considering bills that would add costs to state government and raise taxes on already struggling Hoosiers. Instead, lawmakers will be on the lookout for concepts to streamline government and deliver better service to taxpayers.

That interests me because at least nationally, government is one of the primary job growth areas. I'll have to dig up some numbers for Indiana to see where are trends are.

I'd like to see costs cut, not merely held in check. If ever there was a right time and a perfect climate for cutting, this would be it. I'm not holding my breath. That would mean reducing empire and power, something Kenley, et al, have been loathe to do.

Kenley cites five topics as 'major' for the upcoming session:
  • Economic issues (creating jobs, controlling state spending and avoiding tax hikes);
  • Property tax caps
  • Unemployment insurance premiums
  • Government ethics reforms; and
  • Redistricting
There's bound to be a lot of grandstanding attached to the latter two items on this list. Putting the legislature in charge of policing itself on ethics and reversing gerrymandering? Fox and hen house, I'm afraid. But I'm pleased to see this latter appear, having campaigned on it in 2006. Let's hope they involve the Libertarian Party in the process as a check and balance.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Next, Yemen

It appears that the table is being set for the next theatre in the Bush-Obama wars, Yemen. From a CNN report:
The United States' decision to close its embassy in Yemen came after intelligence suggested that four al Qaeda operatives may be planning an attack on the compound, a senior administration official said Monday.

The United States had information that a group of eight terrorists had been planning an attack, the official said. Three were killed by Yemeni forces in recent days and another was captured wearing a suicide vest, but the other four were believed to be at large, the official said.

Earlier Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the situation in Yemen a possible threat to regional and global security. However, Clinton commended Yemen for taking action against al Qaeda networks and added: "We are reiterating our commitment to assist in those efforts."

The United States and Britain closed their embassies Sunday. Britain's Foreign Office also cited security concerns.

If policy remains consistent, that terrorists are to be rooted out for the potential threat they pose, the next pre-emptive war looks like it will be in Yemen. From CNN:
"The weakness of al Qaeda in Pakistan has forced them out of Pakistan and into Yemen and Somalia," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told a BBC interviewer over the weekend.

As they move into Yemen, terrorists find a nation with dwindling economic fortunes -- oil output will drop to zero in seven years, according to one estimate; a rapidly growing population with rampant unemployment; and limited fresh water to support that growing population.

So, the fly in the ointment is that attacking terrorists wherever they are just doesn't work. they cannot be eliminated. Attack them in Iraq, they go to Pakistan. Attack them in Pakistan, they go to Somalia or Yemen. Endless war.

Time to evoke George Washington again, regarding foreign adventures and peaceful commerce.