Wednesday, August 31, 2011

NLRB Supports Union Coercion

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is supposed to be an "honest broker" able to mediate between unions and businesses. But that's not the way it is now. Under the Obama Administration, the NLRB is a partner to the unions.

The latest example: The National Labor Relations Board announced on Tuesday a decision in the Lamons Gasket case that overturns its own 2007 Dana Corp. decision and effectively ends workers' rights to even request a secret ballot election on unionization.

The Dana Corp. decision allowed workers the opportunity to request a secret ballot election within a 45-day window following a “card-check” organizing effort. Card-check organizing efforts are when union bosses try to get workers they’re targeting to sign cards indicating they want to have a union election.

What union bosses often neglect to tell workers is that if enough workers sign cards, there’s no need for an election. They’d already be unionized.

And now, after such "abusive card-check campaigns", the workers will have no recourse against forced unionization.

To me, the worst aspect of this is not that the NLRB has taken its orders from the unions and done the unions' bidding. Again. It's not even the NLRB's direct, blatant, and extreme violation of the rights of the workers it is supposed to protect. To me, the worst aspect of this the totalitarian behavior of the Obama Administration. Congress considered the unions' card-check legislation, recognized what an abuse it was, and refused to pass it. So the Obama regime, unable to get its way by legislation, determined to get its way through regulation. Unable to get its way through democratic or even semi-democratic processes, it issues orders by executive fiat. Again.

These people have no respect for the law, no respect for democracy, and no respect for the will of the people. They're making us look more like a Banana Republic every day.

There is never a legitimate reason to deny people — workers or otherwise — their right to a secret ballot.

Just more Obama hope & change.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Governor, Packing Heat

Susana Martinez, now the governor of the state of New Mexico, qualified for a "concealed carry" permit while she was a prosecutor in Las Cruces, New Mexico. As governor, she now has a security detail. But she has also requalified for her "concealed carry" permit — with both .38 and .45 caliber handguns.

Her husband, Chuck, is a retired undersheriff in Doña Ana County (the county with Las Cruces as its county seat). Susana commented "Chuck will never admit it, but I'm the better shot."

Susana Martinez scored 100% with both handguns at her requalification.

Registration may be required for the links from the Albuquerque Journal.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Today's Proof of Global Warming

If global warming is real, how can they still be skiing in the West? And it looks like they'll be able to ski there, this year, all year round.

Who would have expected a 365 day ski season for the year at Lake Tahoe? It's an endless winter!

And it definitely must be global warming.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Washington DC Earthquake

The Weather Channel says this week's east coast earthquake was caused by an unknown fault line running under Washington and through Virginia.

It is now being called Obama's Fault, though Obama will say it's really Bush's Fault.

Other theories are that it was the founding fathers rolling over in their graves, or that what we all believed to be an earthquake was actually the effects of a $14.6 trillion check bouncing in Washington.

What He Said!

One of the great contributions of Judeo-Christian moral teachings — as well as those of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and others — is that they made clear to us that men are not and need not be slaves to an animal nature. They teach that humans can exercise self-control, and can be civilized and live by the rules of a society.

Sadly, not all humans are civilized. What is worse, some make a fetish and a societal rule of following a practice of being uncivilized, and deliberately behaving like animals, and like uncivilized people no better than those in the backward pagan tribes of one of the sixth century's least civilized regions.

But there is a difference: Those sixth century people didn't know any better. These people do. Or should.

And that's why I say “what he said!” in support of this at Planck's Constant.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Obamas Party While the Economy Burns

It's not just Barack. And don't expect to see this in the major press in this country — they're still supporting and covering for Obama. But here's another tidbit about the Obamas priorities, and their version of "shared sacrifice".

The Daily Mail is carrying White House reports the Obamas have spent more than $10 million on vacations in the past year. The article ties the vacation spending to "vacation junkie" Michelle Obama because of the several vacation trips she took without her husband, as well as the vacation trips she took with him (like the current vacation on Martha's Vineyard). The White House source says "It's disgusting. Michelle is taking advantage of her privileged position."

It has long appeared that both Barack and Michelle are taking full advantage of their positions to get anything they can get. You might say they're just in it for the perks.

It appears the only U.S. press coverage of this story is in the National Enquirer. (Just like the John Edwards stories? This one, just as an example? For a long while, the Enquirer was the only publication covering that story. Is the National Enquirer becoming mainstream?)

It is increasingly clear we can't rely on the major media to keep us informed, except where it fits their agenda.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wells Fargo Cheats Its Customers

Last week, Wells Fargo announced it would begin charging its debit card customers $3/month for the privilege of accessing their own money. They are doing this as a test, in five states including New Mexico, to see how much they can cheat their customers before they rebel.

Now Wells Fargo has announced their free checking will now cost $7/month. According to the news reports, this charge is not being tested, but is being applied nationwide.

I don't have an account at Wells Fargo (thank heaven!). But if I did, I would close that account right now, and move it to a legitimate bank. Wells Fargo is clearly the worst of the worst.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Four Part Harmony

Barbershop music has a distinctive sound that comes from its four part harmony. In that harmony, each of the four voices has its particular place and vocal responsibility.

Bill Biffle has been singing barbershop music for a long time. He is the past president of the Barbershop Harmony Society (also known as SPEBSQSA — the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America), of which he has been a member for something over 36 years. I think that qualifies him as experienced in this art form.

I heard this description from him a couple of months ago. While there can be exceptions, depending on the specific musical arrangement, in general the four voices in four part harmony line up like this:

  1. Leads are responsible for the melody of the song. (The Quartet Curmudgeon commented that their job is to sing the melody as loudly as possible while keeping it pretty.)
  2. Basses must drive the song. They are responsible for keeping the beat and rhythm going, at the proper tempo.
  3. Tenors are the icing on the cake, floating above the melody and providing color for the song.
  4. Baritones are the mortar (or the grout) of the chorus or quartet. They make everything work together. And the baritones' notes fill in the chords and make them ring.
That combination is why four part harmony sounds so fantastic. Duets and three part harmonies are nice, but they don't reach inside and grab you like a good four part harmony does.

Listen for yourself. Check out the links in the posting on the 2011 Barbershop Harmony Society Mid-Winter Convention last January, or listen to the New MexiChords here or on the YouTube link from the New MexiChords web page.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Overwhelming Force, the Quickest Path to Peace

General Leslie Groves, head of the U.S. Army’s Manhattan Project which produced the atomic bombs, had predicted it would take two bombs to get the Japanese to surrender — one to stun them and a second to demonstrate the first wasn’t a fluke or a one-of-a-kind. As of August 9, 1945, General Groves was right. Hiroshima had been destroyed by an atomic bomb, and it had apparently made no difference.

A second mission had been planned for August 11, but an incoming weather system made the planners decide to move it up by two days. This mission would use the “Fat Man” atomic bomb, the same type as was tested in the Trinity Test in New Mexico less than a month before. The bomb was carried by the B-29 bomber named Bockscar (sometimes written as Bock's Car), piloted by Major Charles Sweeney. The bombing mission's target was Kokura; it only went to its secondary target, Nagasaki, because the target point could not be positively identified through Kokura's smoke and haze.

This seems like a clear application of the concept that overwhelming force is the quickest path to peace, and the way to save the most lives. But, as is often the case, there’s more to the story than that — and it provides further support for this concept.

Japanese physicists were involved in nuclear studies in the 1930s, just as European and American physicists were. By 1940, the Japanese had determined that they had access to more than enough uranium in Korea and Burma to make an atomic bomb. An atomic bomb project was started in April 1941, but the Japanese project determined by late 1944 that it could not produce a bomb in time to affect the war.

The knowledge they built up during their atomic bomb project was put to use in August of 1945. The story is told that physicists sampled the debris after the Hiroshima bombing, and reported that the city had been destroyed by an atomic bomb built of uranium. To the Japanese authorities, that meant it was probably one-of-a-kind because they knew uranium was so difficult to enrich sufficiently that “they can’t possibly have another.” Given that, the Nagasaki bombing surprised them. They sampled debris again in Nagasaki, as they had in Hiroshima, and reported that a plutonium bomb had been used. This was a shock to the authorities, because it meant to them that the U.S. could have a nearly unlimited number of such bombs, depending on a production rate they had no way to know. (The next plutonium bomb was already on its way to the B-29 base on Tinian Island; the planners had reportedly targeted Tokyo for this bomb.) Suddenly the choice the Japanese authorities faced was very stark, indeed — surrender or incineration.

Whether you think General Groves was right, and it would have taken the use of two atomic bombs to bring about a surrender regardless of their type, or whether you think the key factor was the realization that there could be more such bombs on the way — whichever view you hold, it seems clear that two atomic bombs were necessary to end the war without a ground invasion of the Japanese home islands. Overwhelming force proved to be the quickest path to peace.

Today is the anniversary of Bockscar's flight to Kokura and Nagasaki, the anniversary of the day World War II — in the Pacific Theater — really began to end.

More information on the atomic bombs and their use in 1945 to end World War II can be found in Nuclear History, as well as in a number of other sources. Separate parts of the “Nuclear History” article deal with Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the earlier Trinity nuclear test in New Mexico.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Day World War II Began to End

Today is August 6th, the 66th anniversary of the day the crew of the Enola Gay dropped the never-tested “Little Boy” atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. That was the day the war between Japan and the United States — which began with the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 — finally began to end.

The pilot for that mission was Colonel Paul Tibbets, who had named his B-29 Superfortress bomber for his mother. (Any reminder of home was welcome!) After the war's end, he and others of the Hiroshima mission crew visited the National Atomic Museum (now the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History) a number of times. On one such visit, Tibbets spoke with a writer for the newspaper of the Sandia National Laboratories, a conversation written up for the Sandia Lab News in 1998. He and other surviving crew members later put up an internet page.

The Enola Gay’s mission was flown from Tinian Island. There, the 509th Composite Bomb Group had three weaponeers. These were the men responsible for actually arming the nuclear bombs in flight and making sure they would operate as designed when they were dropped from the B-29s. I met one of these three, Leon Smith, many years later. By a flip of the coin, the other two weaponeers flew on the missions to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Smith would probably have flown on the atomic bomb mission to Tokyo had that mission been necessary, but flew on the post-war test at Bikini Atoll instead.

Smith was asked by a Japanese documentary film crew (including three individuals from Hiroshima) a number of years later how he felt when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. He recounted his response as follows:

I pointed out there had been a long war — intensive battles starting in the South Pacific, moving ever northward toward Japan. I talked about the 30,000 Japanese soldiers, 20,000 civilians, lost on Saipan. On Iwo Jima, which was roughly halfway to Japan and a fighter base, 60,000 Marines went ashore, and suffered the highest casualty rate they’d ever suffered in any Marine operation. The Japanese had 21,000 defenders. 20,000 died. The battle for Okinawa had just been completed at the end of June. There over 100,000 Japanese soldiers died. 125-150,000 civilians.

General Marshall believed that defending Japan were 2.3 million soldiers, 4 million navy men, and 28 million armed civilian militia. I said the invasion was scheduled for November of ’45. I thought the casualties would have been simply unreal — beyond comprehension.

I said, “How did I feel when the bomb was dropped? I felt a sense of relief.” I was confident that the war would soon be over. That I could go back and see my wife whom I’d seen very little since our marriage in 1941. The U.S. and its allies could go back to their homes and their families. And the Japanese could go back to their families. Yes, I felt a sense of relief.

Today is the anniversary of the Enola Gay’s flight to Hiroshima, the anniversary of the day Leon Smith’s relief began.

More information on the atomic bombs and their use in 1945 to end World War II can be found in Nuclear History, as well as in a number of other sources. Separate parts of the “Nuclear History” article deal with Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the earlier Trinity nuclear test in New Mexico.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Obama Parties While the Economy Burns

U.S. President Barack Obama didn't let Thursday's disaster in the financial markets disturb his party scheduled for that night. After all, one must keep one's priorities straight, mustn't one? His one concession was keeping the White House party, attended by celebrity supporters and Democrat party leaders, off the official schedule so it wouldn't be quite such an up-front deliberate slap in the country's face. It seems to me that action demonstrates a knowledge of guilt. But that guilt didn't stop the partying, or even slow it down.

The partying for the extended celebration of Obama's birthday continued. One subsequent celebration included former chief of staff (now Chicago mayor) Rahm Emmanuel.

While that was going on, apparently, Standard and Poor's downgraded the U.S. government's credit rating. The reasons given for the downgrade are, in part,

  • The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's medium-term debt dynamics.
  • More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011.
  • Since then, we have changed our view of the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy, which makes us pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government's debt dynamics any time soon.
  • The outlook on the long-term rating is negative. We could lower the long-term rating to 'AA' within the next two years if we see that less reduction in spending than agreed to, higher interest rates, or new fiscal pressures during the period result in a higher general government debt trajectory than we currently assume in our base case.
It sounds like Standard and Poor's is saying the same thing I have been saying: Our problem is that government spending has exploded and is out of control. What we have to do is rein in spending.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama received a birthday greeting for his fiftieth birthday.

Happy 50th Birthday Mr. President! While surprises are for birthdays, it is no surprise to the American people that your failed economic policies — from TARP to your health care bill — have resulted in disaster for our economy. Since taking office, unemployment has remained at or near 9 percent for 28 months, America has added $3.4 trillion in debt in 29 months — the equivalent of about $4 billion per day — we have an anemic housing market with record foreclosures, and an average price of nearly $4 for a gallon of gas. Even your budget did not receive one single vote in the United States Senate — and the icing on the cake — a stock market slide of nearly 800 points in the last 5 days.

While it may be hard to hear the American people’s frustration over the pop of the champagne corks and R&B bands at your $30,000/person birthday party, the citizens of this nation are suffering under your failed leadership. The best present you can give the American people will be for you and your failed economic policies to be defeated in November of 2012.

                  — Allen West (R-FL)

Why is it that what keeps running through my mind is "Nero fiddled while Rome burned"?

What They Told Us About the Debt Bill Wasn't True

They told us if a deal wasn't made to raise the debt ceiling, the financial markets would be in turmoil. In that case, it might produce a day on the stock market like this — a drop of more than 512 points in a single day — the worst day since the financial crisis started with the bursting of the housing bubble (and FNMA and FMCC) in 2008.

Oh, wait. . . . Congress did pass a debt ceiling deal. On Tuesday. And that stock market graph is what we got on Thursday. (Wednesday was bad, too — just not quite as bad as Thursday.) They told us this wouldn't happen if that bill was passed. They were wrong, and what we got was this.

They told us passing a debt ceiling bill ceiling bill would keep this from happening, too. But, of course, the real threat to the U.S. government credit rating, then as now, was the fact that our government's debt was approaching — and now has passed — our government's annual income. And that's because our spending is completely out of control. So they misled us on this, too.

Or maybe it's just that they don't have any idea what they're doing.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Obama Got His Debt Ceiling Deal

President Barack Obama has gotten his "compromise" debt ceiling deal, and has now gotten it passed through both houses of Congress. The House of Representatives passed is yesterday evening (Monday), the Senate passed it today (Tuesday), and the President immediately signed it. Everything happened fast.

The markets issued their judgment fast, too. The US markets said unequivocally that no deal would be better than this deal. The foreign markets agreed, too.

And it looks like my analysis of last week was spot on. Apparently there's almost no cut in spending till after the presidential election. But the spending takes place immediately, and House Majority Leader says it will be eaten up by the time we reach 2013. (That's a continuing $1.6 trillion per year deficit through that time, though the White House had previously claimed the deficits would be reduced — just like the unemployment rate.) It really is a case of "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

There is a way to fix this, and it ties in with the "supercommittee" that will have to develop most of the spending cuts in this deal. The key issues are that we really need to cut spending — or at least stop its increase rather than merely reducing the rate of increase — and we need to avoid raising taxes and shoving the economy back into recession.

So here's what we do and how we are told the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will score it relative to the current profligate baseline spending level (remembering that spending has increased by $1 trillion per year since Obama took office — and that is now part of the baseline).

  1. Immediately freeze spending, cancelling all programmed automatic spending increases. (Cutting spending — perhaps to where it was when Obama took office — would be better, but we'll take what we can get.) We are told the CBO will score this as a $9 trillion cut in spending over the next ten years.
  2. Immediately block the impending tax increase that's the largest in US history, now labeled as stopping the end of the Bush tax cuts. This will prevent a new/repeated/continued recession. We are told the CBO will score this as a $5 trillion debt increasse in the coming decade.
The combination of these two (a) actually stops spending increases, (b) avoids shoving us into recession, and (c) scores out as a $4 trillion debt reduction over ten years. An additional $1 trillion in new spending for the same period can be avoided by repealing Obamacare. That would be an appropriate initial step toward getting the federal government's profligate spending under control.