Sunday, March 27, 2011

Regulation Watch - 03-27-2011

ATF: Second agent speaks on gun running. DHS, Marshals, ICE and DEA were aware
ATF: Obama disclaims knowledge of gun running (but did they get the memo about creating crises so that they wouldn't be wasted?)
California: Central Valley Water Board considers more farm killing measures, nitrates at issue
California: Earthjustice and Dianne Feinstein attack strawberry pesticide
DHS: Security or Pork?
DHS: ICE LA's agent in charge faked degree
Energy: DoE renews its "strong commitment to Earth Hour" would like you to turn off lights permanently 
Energy: Obama delays drilling in U.S., promotes it in Brazil, Soros benefits
Energy: Oil moratoriums in US waters and loans to brazil
Energy: Obama tells Brazil to develop offshore resources
EPA: After Michigan's largest coal-fired plant
EPA: Clashes with Nevada over mine, superfund
EPA: On upcoming votes to defang the EPA wrt greenhouse gasses, and some history
FAA: Surprise! Regulations don't prevent accidents, like sleeping. But FAA revamps anyway to preserve appearances
FCC: GOP questions Genachowski's independence of Obama, but he only visited Obama 81 times last year!
FCC: How to get around Supreme Court rulings protecting free speech? Contact the FCC!
FCC: May we please have permission to do business together? AT&T, T-Mobile merger
FCC: AT&T/T-Mobile, the deal must be OK'd by meddlesome legislators and useless regulators
FDA: Giving migraine sufferers a headache, more attacks on older safe drugs
Fed: Fractional Reserve Banking is fraudulent and the source of most our money
Fed: Subprime was a warmup, wait for the crash of US bonds
Fed: Supreme Court gives fed 5 days to release emergency loan details
HHS: Questions asked about waivers
HHS: Waste abounds with Obamacare
Interior: Coal mining permits granted in Wyoming. Will take 10-20 years
Interior: Coal mining in Wyoming. Trying to deflect attention from killing coal on the east coast?
Interior: LTE on natural gas hydrolic fracturing, aka fracking
Interior: Lawsuit challenges bureaurocratic 'wilderness' designations
IRS: How they pick victims
Justice: New policy of questioning w/o miranda rights  
NLRB: Amusing that the employees might be forced to 'bargain' and prevented from voluntarily decertifying in the NFL vs NFLPU conflict
NLRB: Unions killed Detroit
NLRB: California's George Miller been trying to kill secret unionization ballots for years
TSA: You know that Schumer had the payoff and was just waiting for the crisis. Security breach, Schumer proposes new technology
TSA: Alaska blinking in its conflict with the TSA?
The beast that NLRB created: Union plans to destroy US economy
What an eye-opener to see all the regulations that exist, web resources
Great! Government wants to regulate iPhone apps
Cut regulation, not just the budget
Hard Currency advocate convicted, but who's undermining the U.S. currency?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Book Review: Three Felonies a Day by Harvey Silverglate

The point of this book's title is not that you commit three felonies a day, but that since federal laws are so vague and elastic and federal prosecutors so empowered with tools for bolstering their cases with friendly witnesses from among your colleagues, friends and family that you could be convicted of a felony for any of three things you do in the course of a day. In other words, this book is about the non-objectivity of federal law and of federal adjudication. For anyone concerned with freedom this is a very important issue. The Constitution has protections against ex post facto laws and against laws so vaguely written that an ordinary person can not tell what actions are proscribed. And yet congress routinely passes such laws, refuses to correct them, judges don't challenge them and lawyers (esp. Department of Justice lawyers) take advantage of them. Furthermore the whole legal system has been corrupted to such an extent that it doesn't require a law under which to prosecute someone, only a law covering an analogous situation.

An anecdote told early in the book sums up the problem entirely. Its said that a pastime of DOJ lawyers over lunch is to pick a random celebrity and name a law under which they could be convicted. Pastime it might be, but it is exactly the method used by the DOJ with many targets. A victim is chosen for quasi-legal or even purely political reasons and then a law is found to charge them with. And if that doesn't work, then they do the same for relatives and colleagues until they obtain a conviction and can use the threat of outrageous incarceration to obtain testimony against the intended victim.

The book covers many famous recent cases and will give you a very different understanding of the legal issues surrounding those cases: How Michael Milken was charged under a barrage of elastic laws and induced to plead guilty by going after his brother. How Martha Stewart broke no insider trading laws and was attacked instead for obstructing the investigations against her, a charge that could be leveled at anyone in the course of a federal investigation. How Kenneth Lay was guilty not of fraud but of painting an overly rosy picture of his company. What CEO doesn't do this? How Arthur Anderson, LLP, was destroyed for marketing tax shelters and no more.

One of the cases from late in the book concerns prosecution under federal wiretapping laws of an ISP who was creating backups of drives containing his clients' e-mails. The defendant, Bradford Councilman, was being charged in Boston under these laws by analogy, since e-mails aren't transmissions and backups aren't tapping. As he was proceeding to trial, a west coast appeals court ruled on the same wiretap law provision that copying files was not wiretapping, to which the Boston judge responded by dismissing the indictment against Councilman. The DOJ appealed. A three judge appeals court upheld the judge's dismissal by 2-1. The media, politicians and activists in an effort to protect privacy urged the courts to reconsider, which they did and subsequently ruled, 5-2, that Councilman should be tried. The court ruled bizarrely, despite its own dissenting members, despite the judge that originally dismissed Councilman's indictment, despite the west coast court that ruled oppositely, that a person of "average intelligence" should know that copying those files was a potential federal offense. Thankfully the jury returned a "not guilty" verdict, though it took nine years for Councilman to get through this ordeal. This is but one example from the book of how it is impossible to know what is forbidden and permitted in federal law, even to the elite of the legal profession, much less to the man on the street.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse, they say, but nowadays knowledge of the law is no protection. It is written to be elastic and give law enforment maximum leeway in convicting individuals whom they decided at the beginning are guilty.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Regulation Watch - 03-20-2011

The unaccountable regulatory juggernaut rolls along without any meaningful restrictions. Probably the most important thing is that people are talking about and trying to understand what 'collective bargaining' means. Once they figure that out, the unions are toast. Also, Rand Paul unveiled a balanced budget plan that eliminates 4 agencies. This was overshadowed by international news, but deserves more coverage.

Alaska: Dodd-Frank regulations hit smaller banks harder
California: Coastal Commission backs bill to stop I-5 expansion w/o more local roads
CFPB: Warren grilled on unaccountable regulatory agency (Consumer Finance Protection Bureau)
Commerce: Considering duty to protect US flooring makers. Pressure group warfare.
DHS: Needs help from geeks to spy on massive amounts of data on internet
DHS: Langevin (D-RI) introduces bill to expand DHS authority over private networks
Education: Remember when Wisconsin passed the bill to require union indoctrination in the schools?
Education: Toward a education free market, tax credits >> vouchers
Energy: Depts appliance standards promote less energy and worse results
Energy: If we drop oil after Deepwater Horizon, coal after Chile and nuclear after Fukushima, what's left?
Energy: State economies getting killed by Renewable Portfolio Standards requiring crappy energy sources
EPA: Attn farmers: no milk spills, no dust, no pesticide drift. EPA = end productive agriculture
EPA: McConnell (R-KY) amendment would stop EPA from regulating greenhouse gasses
EPA: Call your congressman to stop EPA regulation of CO2
FDIC: Refusal of FOIA requests 'stinks of arrogance and entitlement'
FDIC: If WaMu is guilty of lending to unworthy clients, so is the Community Reinvestment Act
Forbes: Help Housing? Dump Uncle Sam
Interior: Is Salazar lying about 54 drilling permits or is the DOJ when it says 327?
Justice: Surprised? FedEx just won it effort to prevent unionization, now under investigation by DOJ
NLRB: MSM fails to define 'collective bargaining'. Doesn't mention its compulsory bargaining.
NLRB: Plan for microunions of 2 or 3 employees moving ahead
NRC: Great timing. San Onofre Nuclear plant renewing license from Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Tennessee: Governor signs health care freedom law. Tennesseans free to choose participation in Obamacare
Florida writer offers up examples of careless investors to encourage regulation of gold
TSA: Neither safe nor effective, scanners compulsory, think about that relative to the FDA
TSA: Man with 4th amendment on chest sues over arrest
SEC: Lovely, SEC vs. Fannie and Freddie leads to Regulator vs Regulator?
Six ways to rein in the administrative state
Treasury: U.S. quite open to global reserve currency run by the IMF
Suck hard on that government teat before you get kicked outa the barn!
Rand Paul unveils 5-yr plan to balance budget, eliminates 4 agencies: education, energy, commerce and housing

First Principles Debate Series I: ARI's Yaron Brook Vs. Demos' Miles Rapoport

If you have some time, take in this debate on the fundamental principles of government (hosted by WNYC). Yaron Brook of ARI defends capitalism. Miles Rapoport of Demos defends social democracy. The audience was evenly split between their supporters to judge from the laughter and applause they each got. The debate is wide ranging but the debaters and moderator Brian Lehrer do a great job keeping the arguments focused on principles. The debate covers the foundational principles of government, the industrial revolution, unions, education, the wars in the middle east, the financial crisis, the civil war, and the civil rights act. In each case the arguments are brought back to first principles, either to individualism (Yaron) or social responsibility (Miles).

Yaron was stellar on every topic, explaining his position clearly and thoroughly. He didn't skirt any difficult to explain issue. Rapoport and Lehrer were similarly open, respectful and surprisingly intellectual (i.e. they did not engage in crudely fallacious arguments or ad hominem attacks).

Here is a transcript of my favorite statement from Yaron, on child labor (following 49:00 in the video version). Though it doesn't illustrate how the topics were connected to first principles, I like it for Yaron's having taken up an unpopular position and given real examples showing his position is the rational one. I think his first sentence says all of that by implication--that it is a difficult topic and that he's clear enough in his principles to take it on and articulate a rational case:

Yaron Brook: Just for the fun of it I'd like to take the child labor on. (laughter)

There's this mythology that capitalism created child labor. That in the Industrial Revolution suddenly children started working. How many of you have ever lived on a farm? What do children do on a farm, even to this day? They work. And in subsistence farming they worked and died at an unbelievable rate. So whatever happened when they moved to cities--and I'm not saying it was pleasant, certainly the early years of capitalism were unpleasant years--it was an enormous improvement over what they had on the farms. Just ask go to Indonesia and ask them today. They'd rather work in a factory for one buck a day, than work on the farm because life on the farm is so horrible. They'd rather work in what we would consider unthinkable conditions in a factory.

Why did child labor go away? Look at the facts, the facts are, the imperical evidence is that child labor went away for two reasons. One, parents accumulated enough wealth to be able to send their kids to school. Very few parents want to send their kids to work when they have another option. Second, how many of you manage people? Would you like to manage 7-year olds? (laughter) Its just not efficient to manage kids. The laws came, as they usually do, the laws came after the phenomenon was already disappearing. Its just not productive.

Brian Lehrer: Would you repeal the child labor laws and let it exist around the edges in America?

Yaron Brook: Yes I would. I would repeal the child labor laws and let it exist around the edges. (applause) And by the way, I think it does. Again, go to any farm. Families are not condemned for working their kids in a farm environment. Indeed, its often considered a wonderful thing.

Full video here:

If you don't need to see video here's a cleaner audio only link.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Relative Risks of Nuclear

Amusing and informative read here on the relative risks of nuclear. Money quote:
Candles kill more than nuclear
Indeed many things are far more dangerous than nuclear power plants, at least they have caused far more deaths and mayhem. Here are some annual death statistics from the USA that cause many more deaths, taken from here and here. Why don’t we ban all of these menacing products?
Nuclear power plants – 0 deaths per year
Candles  - 126
Bicycles 1995  - 800
Agriculture  - 1,300
Motorcycles  – 2,500
Car Phones 2002   - 2,500
Alcohol – 100,000
Tobacco – 500,000
Candles kill 126 – in just a single year and in a single country! Having a reliable supply of electricity would mean less use of candles, and so lives would be saved. As far as I know, all of the above killer items are being sold without protest.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Review: Why I am Not a Muslim by Ibn Warraq

Why I am Not a Muslim is not a biographical account of Warraq's life, but a intellectual and scholarly account of Islam, Mohammed, and their problems. It is biography only in the sense that it lays out the many reasons religious, philosophic, political and historical that Warraq is not a muslim, despite being raised in a muslim family. Reading Bertrand Russell's Why I am not a Christian does not prepare you for the scope of Warraq's book.

After covering the Rushdie Affair and his motivation for writing, Warraq delves into the origins of Islam, problems determining what's true and what's not regarding Mohammed and his message, the Koran, the totalitarian nature of Islam, its compatibility with democracy and the West, Arab imperialism, Heretics, the influence of Greek philosophy on Islam, Women, Taboos. Every chapter is thorough and supported by dozens of quotations and references. I liked especially the first chapter's discussion covering what many of the great minds of Western civilization have said of Islam, authors such as Hume, Hobbes, Dante, and Gibbon.

Three things stand out in my mind. First, much of the Koran and Mohammed's biographical traditions were invented hundreds of years after Mohammed's is supposed to have lived. Warraq recounts the various lines of evidence showing this and discusses the reasons for thinking that perhaps Mohammed himself never existed (e.g. that there are no non-muslim sources attesting to his life and exploits). Ultimately this does not change the nature of Islam's problems. Whatever is wrong with Islam is wrong whether its founder is make believe or real. Second, Islam has quite a varied history with more secular and tolerant periods (and sects) interspersed with more religious and intolerant periods. Warraq does not explain why this was but does describe how most of the more secular sects and trends have been completely eradicated. Third, the history of Islam is indeed bloody. Warraq's brief account of the expansion of Islam, the sacking of cities, examples of putting the entire male populations to the sword, the dhimmi status forced on surviving Christians and Jews, the insecurity of dhimmi protections, and above all the revolting treatment of women throughout Islamic history will turn your stomach.

When discussing Islam, the question always arises, "is it worse than Christianity?" Warraq as an athiest is no fan of Christianity either and doesn't address this question in depth.

I haven't quoted any of Warraq's writing yet. I will close with his statement of why he decided to write the book and why understanding Islam is so important:
It is rare in one's life that one has an opportunity to show on what side of an important life and death issue one stands--the Rushdie affair and the rise of Islam are two such issues and this book is my stand. For those who regret not being alive in the 1930s to be able to show their commitment to a cause, there is, first the Rushdie affair, and, second, the war that is taking place in Algeria, the Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, a war whose principal victims are Muslims, Muslim women, Muslim intellectuals, writers, ordinary, decent people. This book is my war effort. Each time I have doubted the wisdom of writing such a book, new murders in the name of God and Islam committed in Algeria or Iran or Turkey or the Sudan have urged me on to complete it.

The most infuriating and nauseating aspect of the Rushdie affair was the spate of articles and books written by Western apologists for Islam--journalists, scholars, fellow travelers, converts (some from communism)--who claimed to be speaking for Muslims...The present work attempts to sow a drop of doubt in an ocean of dogmatic certainty by taking an uncompromising and critical look at almost all the fundamental tenets of Islam.
If you were looking for one book to read about Islam, this one is it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Regulation Watch - 03-13-2011

The biggest news this week is of course the earthquake in Japan and the still uncounted losses there. May their recovery be swift. On the regulatory front here the two themes this week are NPR exposing its biases (hating the tea party and loving the muslim brotherhood) at the worst possible time and the widening investigation into the ATFs drug running operation. Also, Obamacare waivers have topped 1000 and the FCC is pushing its government broadband plan strongly.

Alaska: Sues Interior and FWS over polar bear habitat designation
ATF: Department calls all in to get everyone on the same page, spin control
ATF: ATF, DOJ launch damage control over project gunrunner scandal
California: Coastal Commission also regulates pot clubs?
Colorado: f-d up on beer regulation, issues emergency regulation voiding the regulation
DHS: Napolitano disclaims knowledge of ATF gun running operations
DHS: Waffles on whether it tested equipment for sidewalk, train station scans
DHS: DHS and DOJ prosecute site for linking!
Economics: This is the kind of economics our regulators believe in. Earthquake may boost japanese economy according to Larry Summers, former director of the NEC
Education: So glad the gov't is in charge of student loans and grants. Loan debt hits $900B
Education: Towards a free market in education, vouchers or tax credits?
Energy: Anti-Energy, Anti-Industrial Policy: When is Enough Enough
Energy: Rand Paul challenges DOE busybodies telling us what appliances and lightbulbs we have to use
EPA: Capito (R-W.Va.) introduces bill to limit backlog of permit requests
EPA: agents whip parents into frenzy over PCB
FCC: Hands out millions to expand government broadband service
FCC: More on government broadband. Think conservative bloggers will remain accessible from government provided wireless?
FCC: House panel votes to void FCC net-equality rule
FDA: Remind me why the FDA controls tests? Are test results harmful to life and limb? FDA weighs DNA testing regulation
Fed: Rand Paul: Banking collapse was caused by too much regulation
Fed: BofA puts bad mortgages into 'Bad Bank'. Expect Bernanke buy it in the name of taxpayers soon.
Fed: Isn't that the premise of the Fed? Nobel Laureate: Credit should be a human right
Idaho: Votes to phase out teacher tenure, restrict collective bargaining
Interior: Seeks to raise onshore oil royalty rates
Interior: Salazar says will move forward with consideration of drilling permits
Interior: considers regulation of natural gas procedure 'fracking' under pressure from NYTimes
FWS: U.S. Fish & Wildlife enforces Endangered Species Act, supported by B.S. subspecies categorization
HHS: Obamacare waivers top 1000
HHS: Obamacare waivers break 1000, GOP panel investigates
HHS: Feds give all of Maine waver
HHS: Wavers violate equal protection under the law principle
HHS: After weeks of delay Justice finally appeals Vinson's Obamacare unconstitutionality ruling
New Jersey: Starts to deregulate telecommunications
NLRB: Sodexo can't decide its own media policy
NPR: Executive calls tea party gun-toting racists
NPR: The tea party are undermining america, the muslim brotherhood not so much
NPR: NPR Exec says NPR would be better off without federal support
NPR: Last straw for NPR
Obama: Even the unaccountable regulatory state is a straight jacket. Would be easier to be Hu Jintao.
SEC: Chair fails to disclose conflict in madoff case
SEC: Under fire for ties with Madoff and Dodd-Frank filing against witness in Rajaratnam insider trading case
SEC: Curious Accusations
Texas: Takes on the TSA. "Any person who touches another without probable cause..." Two bills introduced.
Transportation: Grassley (R-Iowa) announces $400k in bacon for his state

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wisconsin Governor Walker Fires Back

Scott Walker has fired back at the unions with a list of union injustices (at his website here). It is impressive and infuriating. Is Walker's press release what they call 'speaking truth to power'? According to Urban Dictionary that phrase was "coined by the Quakers in the mid-1950s. It was a call for the United States to stand firm against fascism and other forms of totalitarianism." Seems appropriate given the thuggish tactics of the unions and their desire to enslave taxpayers.

Madison— Today Governor Walker’s office released more specific examples and new details to show how collective bargaining fiscally impacts government and how reforming collective bargaining can improve government.

A Year’s Worth of Pay for 30 Days of Work

Under the Green Bay School District’s collectively bargained Emeritus Program, teaches can retire and receive a year’s worth of salary for working only 30 days over a three year period.  This is paid in addition to their already guaranteed pension and health care payouts.

At the average annual salary for a Green Bay teacher of $51,355, this amounts to a daily rate of pay of $1,711.83, or an hourly rate of $213.98.  Since most retiring teachers receive higher than average salary, these amounts are, in practice, much higher.

Source: WLUK-TV, 3/3/11

Teachers Receiving Two Pensions

Due to a 1982 provision of their collective bargaining agreement, Milwaukee Public School teachers actually receive two pensions upon retirement instead of one.  The contribution to the second pension is equal to 4.2% of a teacher’s salary, with the school district making 100% of the contribution, just like they do for the first pension.  This extra benefit costs taxpayers more than $16 million per year.

Source: February 17, 2010 Press Release, Process of developing FY11 budget begins Milwaukee Public Schools

Almost $10,000 Per Year for Doing Nothing

While the Green Bay Emeritus Program actually requires teachers to at least show up for work, the Madison Emeritus Program doesn’t even require that.  In addition to their pension payouts, retired Madison public school teachers receive annual payments of at least $9,884.18 per year for enrolling in the Emeritus Program, which requires ZERO days of work.

When this program began, 20 days of work per year were required.  Through collective bargaining, the union successfully negotiated this down to zero days.

Source: Madison Teachers Inc. Website

Yesterday the Governor’s office released these examples of the fiscal impact of collective bargaining

No Volunteer Crossing Guards Allowed

A Wausau public employee union filed a grievance to prohibit a local volunteer from serving as a school crossing guard. The 86-year-old lives just two blocks away and serves everyday free of charge.

Principal Steve Miller says, "He said, you know, this gives me a reason to get up in the morning to come and help these kids in the neighborhood."

But for a local union that represents crossing guards, it isn't that simple.  Representatives didn't want to go on camera but say if a crossing guard is needed, then one should be officially hired by the city.

Source: WAOW-TV, 1/27/10

$6,000 Extra for Carrying a Pager

Some state employees, due to the nature of their positions, are required to carry pagers during off-duty hours in order to respond to emergency situations.  Due to the collective bargaining agreements, these employees are compensated an extra five hours of pay each week, whether they are paged or not.

For an employee earning an average salary of $50,000 per year, this requirement can cost more than $6,000 in additional compensation.

Source: 2008-09 Agreement between the State of Wisconsin and AFSCME Council 24

Arbitrator Reinstates Porn-Watching Teacher

A Cedarburg school teacher was reinstated by an arbitrator after being fired for viewing pornography on a school computer.  The school district ultimately succeeded in terminating the teacher only after taking the case to the Wisconsin Supreme Court at great cost to the taxpayers.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/23/08

‘Outstanding First Year Teacher’ Laid Off

Milwaukee Public Schools teacher Megan Sampson was laid off less than one week after being named Outstanding First Year Teacher by the Wisconsin Council of English Teachers.  She lost her job because the collective bargaining agreement requires layoffs to be made based on seniority rather than merit.

Informed that her union had rejected a lower-cost health care plan, that still would have required zero contribution from teachers, Sampson said, “Given the opportunity, of course I would switch to a different plan to save my job, or the jobs of 10 other teachers.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6/14/10

Union Opposes Cost-Saving Lawn Mowing Program

As a cost cutting measure, Racine County began using county inmates to cut the grass in medians and right-of-ways at no cost to the taxpayers.  A county employee union filed a grievance indicating it was the right of government workers to cut the grass, even though it would cost the taxpayers dramatically more.

Source: Racine Journal Times, 5/12/10

The $150,000 Bus Driver

In 2009, the City of Madison’s highest paid employee was a bus driver who earned $159,258, including $109,892 in overtime, guaranteed by a collective bargaining agreement.  In total, seven City of Madison bus drivers made more than $100,000 per year in 2009.

"That's the (drivers') contract," said Transit and Parking Commission Chairman Gary Poulson.

Source: Wisconsin State Journal, 2/7/10

$150,000 Correctional Officers

Correctional Officer collective bargaining agreements allow officers a practice known as “sick leave stacking.”  Officers can call in sick for a shift, receiving 8 hours of sick pay, and then are allowed to work the very next shift, earning time-and-a-half for overtime.  This results in the officer receiving 2.5 times his or her rate of pay, while still only working 8 hours.

In part because of these practices, 13 correctional officers made more than $100,000 in 2009, despite earning base wages of less than $60,000 per year.  The officers received an average of $66,000 in overtime pay for an average annual salary of more than $123,000 with the highest paid receiving $151,181.

Source: Department of Corrections

Previously the Governor’s office released these examples of the fiscal impact of collective bargaining:

Paid-Time off for Union Activities
In Milwaukee County alone, because the union collectively bargained for paid time off, fourteen employees receive salary and benefits for doing union business. Of the fourteen, three are on full-time release for union business.  Milwaukee County spent over $170,000 in salary alone for these employees to only participate in union activities such as collective bargaining.

Surrender of Management Rights

Because of collecting bargaining, unions have included provisions in employee contracts that have a direct fiscal impact such as not allowing management to schedule workers based on operational needs and requiring notice and approval by the union prior to scheduling changes.  As County Executive Walker attempted to reduce work hours based on budget pressures and workload requirements by instituting a 35 hour work week to avoid layoffs, which the union opposed.  Additionally, government cannot explore privatization of functions that could save taxpayers money. 

WEA Trust

Currently many school districts participate in WEA trust because WEAC collectively bargains to get as many school districts across the state to participate in this union run health insurance plan as possible.  Union leadership benefits from members participating in this plan.  If school districts enrolled in the state employee health plan, it would save school districts up to $68 million per year.  Beyond that if school districts had the flexibility to look for health insurance coverage outside of WEA trust or the state plan, additional savings would likely be realized.

Viagra for Teachers

The Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA) tried to use a policy established by collective bargaining to obtain health insurance coverage that specifically paid for Viagra.  Cost to taxpayers is $786,000 a year.


Unrealistic Overtime Provisions

On a state level, the Department of Corrections allows correctional workers who call in sick to collect overtime if they work a shift on the exact same day.  The specific provision that allows this to happen was collectively bargained for in their contract.  Cost to taxpayers $4.8 million.

The reason unions can get away with this is that they have the power to force employers to negotiate with them, ruling out by force of law the possibility of simply being fired and replaced for making such ridiculous demands. This egalitarian legal principle goes by the misnomer of 'collective bargaining'.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Regulation Watch - 03-06-2011

The news about the ATF gun running operation that contributed to the death of one of its own agents is hot this week. Another emerging theme is Obama's efforts to delay the impact of various regulations until after the 2012 election. This will undoubtedly grow over the next year.

EPA: Delays in regulations beyond 2012 to get Obama re-elected
EPA: Smog regulations could cost 7.3M jobs
DHS: Delays 'Real ID' until after 2012 elections, Obama needs all the help he can get
DHS: Seeks more money for cyber security 
DHS: Defends illegal seizures w/o cause of 84,000 websites
DHS: Denies plans for expanded use of body scanners. Yeah right.
DHS: Had suspicions about suspect before companies' tip, would definitely have done something and not let an attack happen so that it could seek broader powers
DHS: Plans on scanning DNA at checkpoints
TSA: Peep Show, Police State, Privacy Invasion or All Three?
TSA: Genetic patdowns coming 
ATF: Agent: I was ordered to let US. guns into Mexico
ATF: Revelations prompt review of gun running operation
ATF: Sits and Watches Guns Illegally Shipped into Mexico
ATF: DOJ summons ATF agents to D.C. to coordinate lies regarding gun running operation
ATF: Mexico queries US gun smuggling operation
NHTSA: More delays past 2012 election for bad regulations. Obama asks for in-vehicle camera regulation delay
Montana: Marijuana, if you can't ban it, regulate it!
Montana: Democratic governor defies Interior over Wolf management
Labor: Cracks down on teen jobs and failing industry, theaters
Labor: New regulations of 401k administrators. Brace yourselves for moral hazard, crisis and nationalization
Labor: Dept takes side of Public Unions despite mission to protect job seekers and retirees too
NLRB: Using Google to advertise 'how to start a union'
NLRB: Hyatt Regency Long Beach begs for secret ballot. If only they had the right to fire who they want.
NLRB: Wisconsin passes bill to protect people, limits 'collective bargaining'
NLRB: Anti-discrimination laws have become discrimination laws, only fire the healthy
Interior: Salazar says judge can't tell the department what to do 
Interior: Salazar purjures himself in front of the House. Claims oil production at an all time high
Interior: Dept threatens to deny permit requests in response to unfriendly ruling
FDA: Bans safe and cheap drugs
FDA: More on FDA attack on cough and cold drugs that lead to....drowsiness and irritability!
FDA: scrutinizing cheese
FCC: Companies complain about regulations
PBS: Demint cites salaries as reason for privatizing NPR and PBS. Close enough I guess. But when will republicans discover the first amendment?
Science: Some wonderful quotes from John Holdren, Obama's Science Advisor
California: Of course environmentalists don't like desalination, not when it actually might work
California: Just what we need, more regulatory monitoring in the central valley
California: Low flow toilets cause massive stink in SF, $100M upgrades required and lots of bleech
SEC: Continues attempt to distract public using salaries. How about letting them fail when they do stupid shit?
Texas: Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 to prevent EPA backdoor cap-and-trade regulation
Education: Here's how fascism works. Short seller prompts Obama admin to tighten regulations.
South Carolina: Legislation introduced to stop feds from dictating your light bulbs
Charles G. Koch defends himself, attacks 'crony capitalism'
Occupational licensing rampant across the nation
HHS: Sebelius admits ObamaCare 'unsustainable'
A warning from 3M about regulation
GAO report details redundancy in government agencies

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A 'Right' which Imposes a Burden is not a Right

PJTV's Facebook page has a brief discussion on Allen Barton's PJTV show with Yaron Brook and Terry Jones (might require Facebook login). The topic is Lincoln's legacy at the 150th anniversary of his inauguration. The discussion of Lincoln is good with Terry and Yaron both defending Lincoln's war on slavery. Yaron clarifies that he (Yaron) is not a defender of state's rights but of individual rights. Here is the exchange between Allen and Yaron (with minor edits), which concludes with an excellent brief description of what's wrong with 'positive rights' like the right to work or right to health care:
Allen: Walter Williams, professor of economics at George Mason University, said that the outcome of the civil war is that "the federal government can do anything it wishes and the states have little or no recourse." Yaron, what are your thoughts on this? How did the civil war really transform the relationship between the states, the citizens and the federal government, aside from the issue of slavery?

Yaron: You know, I don't think it transformed it as much as people claimed it did. I think its being transformed, but I am not a big advocate for so-called 'state rights'. I know that's a very popular position among conservatives and libertarians, but I don't buy it. I am a proponent of only one type of right, that is individual rights. I think that the purpose of the federal government is to protect the individual rights of all Americans. If the state of California is violating my rights, it is the purpose of the federal government, the only purpose of the federal government, to step in and say "California, you're not allowed to do that. You cannot do that."

Now, unfortunately, the federal government is the biggest violator of my individual rights of anybody, so they're not in the position to defend them anymore. But if you take the world as it was at the beginning of the Civil War the federal government had every right to go in and say to the southern states, "this is a clear violation of rights, there is no greater violation of rights that slavery. You cannot do this. This is wrong. This country is founded on the idea of unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Shape up or we're going to come in and enforce a new regime." It didn't quite happen that way but that was the implication.

The problem we face today is that individual rights are being violated by my local city council, my county government, my state government, the federal government...

Allen: Also, rights have been redefined as far exceeding that of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but the right to health care, the right to a job, the right to a home. The right to material goods and services is now accepted by a lot of people as actual viable rights.

Yaron: There is no such thing as individual rights anymore because those are negations of rights. You cannot have a right that places a burden on somebody else. There can't be a right to a good, because someone has to produce the good and you're making him a slave to you. If you have a right to bread, then the baker better make it, he has to produce it for me and therefore he is my slave.

This is very relevant to health care. If you have the right to health care, then doctors are your slaves. That is a negation of rights. The only concept of rights that is legitimate is the concept the Founding Fathers had, that is of freedoms. Rights mean being left alone to pursue your life, liberty and happiness.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

DHS is Busy

The Department of Homeland Security seriously needs to be shut down ASAP. Consider this:
Giving Transportation Security Administration agents a peek under your clothes may soon be a practice that goes well beyond airport checkpoints. Newly uncovered documents show that as early as 2006, the Department of Homeland Security has been planning pilot programs to deploy mobile scanning units that can be set up at public events and in train stations, along with mobile x-ray vans capable of scanning pedestrians on city streets.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Elan Journo on Multiculturalism

Now that world leaders (Sarkozy, Merkel, Cameron, Aznar) are starting to admit that multiculturalism is an utter failure and is contributing to the destruction of western civilization, its worth reading some prinicipled material on the subject. Here for example is an article Elan Journo wrote a few years ago for the Ayn Rand Institute. In part:

Leaf through a school textbook and you’ll find that there is a definite pattern behind multiculturalism's reshaping of the curriculum. What multiculturalists seek is not the goal they advertise, but something else entirely. Consider, for instance, the teaching of history.

One text acclaims the inhabitants of West Africa in pre-Columbian times for having prosperous economies and for establishing a university in Timbuktu; but it ignores their brutal trade in slaves and the proliferation of far more consequential institutions of learning in Paris, Oxford and elsewhere in Europe. Some books routinely lionize the architecture of the Aztecs, but purposely overlook or underplay the fact that they practiced human sacrifices. A few textbooks seek to portray Islam as peaceful in part by distorting the concept of "jihad" ("sacred war") to mean an internal struggle to surmount temptation and evil. Islam's wars of religious conquest are played down.

What these textbooks reveal is a concerted effort to portray the most backward, impoverished and murderous cultures as advanced, prosperous and life-enhancing. Multiculturalism's goal is not to teach about other cultures, but to promote--by means of distortions and half-truths--the notion that non-Western cultures are as good as, if not better than, Western culture. Far from "broadening" the curriculum, what multiculturalism seeks is to diminish the value of Western culture in the minds of students. But, given all the facts, the objective superiority of Western culture is apparent, so multiculturalists artificially elevate other cultures and depreciate the West.

If students were to learn the truth of the hardscrabble life of primitive farming in, say, India, they would recognize that subsistence living is far inferior to life on any mechanized farm in Kansas, which demands so little manpower, yet yields so much. An informed, rational student would not swallow the "politically correct" conclusions he is fed by multiculturalism. If he were given the actual facts, he could recognize that where men are politically free as in the West, they can prosper economically; that science and technology are superior to superstition; that man's life is far longer, happier and safer in the West today than in any other culture in history.

The ideals, achievements and history of Western culture in general--and of America in particular--are purposely given short-shrift by multiculturalism. That the Industrial Revolution and the Information Age were born and flourished in Western nations; that the preponderance of Nobel prizes in science have been awarded to people in the West--such facts, if they are noted, are passed over with little elaboration.

The "history" that students do learn is rewritten to fit multiculturalism's agenda. Consider the birth of the United States. Some texts would have children believe the baseless claim that America's Founders modeled the Constitution on a confederation of Indian tribes. This is part of a wider drive to portray the United States as a product of the "convergence" of three traditions--native Indian, African and European. But the American republic, with an elected government limited by individual rights, was born not of stone-age peoples, but primarily of the European Enlightenment. It is a product of the ideas of thinkers like John Locke, a British philosopher, and his intellectual heirs in colonial America, such as Thomas Jefferson.

It is a gross misconception to view multiculturalism as an effort to enrich education. By reshaping the curriculum, the purveyors of "diversity" in the classroom calculatedly seek to prevent students from grasping the objective value to human life of Western culture--a culture whose magnificent achievements have brought man from mud huts to moon landings.

Multiculturalism agent of anti-Western ideology.