Are You Ready??????

Got a housekeeper? Do your children hire adult babysitters? How about a gardener?

Ready to provide: Time cards, ten minutes an hour rest, lunch hours, Workers Comp, overtime pay, etc. Ready to bring in a substitute for the children’s baby-sitter during the 10 minute/hour break?

Well you may not be ready but the California Legislature is, and the Assembly has already passed AB 889 and since it has the total support of the Democratic Party – and the State Senate and the Governor are all in the hands of Democrats, you just might see this as law.

 

What little good news there is, is that “domestic employees” are immune to the requirements for minimum wage if they are under 18 or family members. Not much solace there, since my gardener gets $15 an hour and my housekeeper gets $20+, but I don’t keep timecards, nor do I pay workman’s comp, or overtime Their meal breaks and rest periods are self chosen and self monitored, but I suspect the state will require that both be regularized and accounted for.

Any questions as to why businesses are moving out of California? Any question as to why California has 12%+ unemployed?

No, I didn’t think so.

Are We France Yet?

Remember when it was disclosed several years ago that there were A/C rooms in Detroit where thousands of union “workers” spent the day reading newspapers and watching TV. They were being held ‘on standby” for months, even years, just in case they might be, someday, needed. This “featherbedding” was the result of a union demand, to avoid layoffs – even if the marketplace demanded layoffs for efficiency.

The antiseptic of public sunshine reduced but did not end the practice.

Then you were asked to wrap your mind around hundreds of teachers in Los Angeles, and hundreds more in NYC (and how many more in school districts across the county), where “Rubber Rooms” were maintained for teachers under criminal indictment who were paid for as much as five years while their cases went through endless union enforced administrative procedures.

The antiseptic of public sunshine reduced but did not end the practice.

Now, wrap your mind around the Post Office! Yes, it too has Postal Workers, who were paid $4 million in the first six months of this year – while losing $8 BILLION. Again, this featherbedding is the result of demands from  the American Postal Workers Union, and the National Association of Letter Carriers. The Postal Service may not either lay off or reassign people, even if there is no work from them. In 2009 that featherbedding coast $31 million, and $22 million in fiscal 2010 – lower numbers because of retirements!

Are we France, yet?

 

 

 

The Housing Crises

There are pushes and pulls in the housing market and there is nothing on the horizon to change that. the number of home sales continues to dwindle because there is no heat in the market. heat in the market occurs when a potential Buyer is motivated to buy because someone might just whisk that house from under them.

That is not the case today. Buyers can and do continue to look, and postpone a purchase — because they can.

While there are numerical reasons the market is poor, particularly the continuing lower prices to chase the fewer actual Buyers, and the higher credit scores the lenders are requiring, in the end it is Buyer confidence and fear (fear of losing a dream home to a competitor) that drives sales,

When there is fear in the market, either fear of losing a home or fear of losing your job, that drives the market in the appropriate direction, and fear (in either direction) feeds on itself.

 

Rationality goes out the window when fear enters, and until something is introduced that changes the direction of the fear, the market will languish.

 

 

 

 

What! Another One? (Perhaps he is the one we have been waiting for…)

The president has still another relative who is illegal, a 67-year-old uncle, Obama Onyango, and perhaps that is why the president is so accommodating of illegal aliens. How many more will surface?

In this case, another relative who has a deportation order and has not been deported, but this one has a valid Massachusetts drivers license and a valid (?) Social Security card! One cannot do that without, in this case, a forged birth certificate and using a forged document to get a Social Security card is a FELONY.

It will be very interesting how the president handles this one, we are talking federal felonies since he used forged documents.

This will test the presidents plan to only deport those who commit felonies.  Perhapsnot is only SOME felonies because we have already seen that the presidents illegal alien family gets “special treatment.”

Book Report, Stasiland

The book Stasiland, Stories From Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder is, appropriately about life in the East German Republic under their Internal Police Force, the Stasi.

The Stasi were so prolific that unlike the Russians who had KGB per thousands, or Gestapo with agents per hundreds, the Stasi had agents and informers per ten! It was not uncommon to trump u a charge, imprison a person and offer them release if they would inform on their neighbors.

Obviously, East Germany was a large concentration camp, with escapes few although it was not possible to build a wall in one day, or erect barriers everywhere instantly so there were some means of escape in the beginning and eventually some 29 escaped through a tunnel until it was discovered and another 55 through doctored but real passports on trains that ran through East Germany to other European countries. Eventually, with so many informants it became almost impossible to plan an escape – one had to do it ad hoc without telling anyone.

On the recent anniversary of the fall of the wall there were videos of people jumping onto mattresses supplied by West Germans from the third floor of apartments on the Wall as the Stasi were boarding up the windows of apartments on lower floors.

It was apparent for a week or so before the Berlin Wall fell that all was lost for the Stasi, and they systematically destroyed as many records as possible – burning out commercial shredders – more than 100 in one building alone, and having to emergency purchase more in West Berlin. The people rose up, finally, in such massive numbers that the Stasi could not put down the rebellion absent a HUGE bloodbath, so they simply faded away.

But the results of the shredding were about 15,000, yard-high bags of shredded paper and those are being reassembled by “Puzzle People” – about 30, mostly women, who can assemble 10 pages each, per day. It is mostly symbolic because it would take more than 400 years to do the entire job, but they continue to try to answer questions from former students who wish to know why their university admission was denied, or a widow about why her husband was kidnapped and only his ashes returned, or why someone was not promoted in a job. (Or, which West German politicians had been extorted, or bribed by the Stasi…they were in high places!)

The book – actually I listened to an audio version from Audible.com — is a fascinating research and interview series of both Stasi and their surviving victims by an Australian woman who speaks fluent German. There are apparently still many living in East Germany who long for the days of cheap kindergartens (so the Stasi could indoctrinate), and order, no matter how gray and dismal. Some East Germans HATE competition, and others are so confused by the many choices provided by Capitalism – and as for the former Stasi, there is the loss of power, the ultimate aphrodisiac.

I commend the book to anyone who is interested in very recent, but virtually unknown, history.

Talk About School Reform!

Katrina is still in the news because of Irene, but it should b in the news for something more – something good.

Schools.

The Daily has an editorial demonstrating that the destruction of the school system by the Katrina hurricane has caused a HUGE turnaround in the school system. Before the hurricane, two out of three students attended schools rated as :failures.”

The state seized the schools (107 out of 128) and abolished the school boards as an emergency matter, and then reformed the system entirely, ending the teacher unions and their failed system of control.

Starting with a clean sheet, but with the same demographic of students as before – primarily Black – the scores have soared!

Pre-Katrina, only 26% of 8th grade students were minimally proficient in English, now that number is 46%. Over the past four years, the percentage of high school students passing the high school math exit exam is 21% higher than before and they pass the  English exam 18% more often. A majority of the students are passing the high school exit exam on the first try.

The reorganization of the New Orleans police force, perhaps the most corrupt in America, has received most of the attention but the schools deserve a great deal more attention.

(Here is the really bad news: California students were rated below Louisiana students in reading BEFORE Katrina.)

 

 

Quick Hits

Gosh, another East Coast professor (Krueger) appointed by the president? Who could have guessed?  Google Ezra Klein of the WaPo for a good analysis of the Krueger appointment.

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It has been a solid 30 years since I published a column calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme, and the letters poured into the Bernardo News from the elderly in Rancho Bernardo.  It was, and is a Ponzi scheme and like all Ponzi schemes the recipients don’t believe it, preferring to believe in the tooth fairy. That does not change what it is.

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California as a state has 70 state parks, which it can no longer keep open – just another case of overextension, common among businesses and homeowners as well. Businesses and homeowners must sell off their overextended holdings – something the state should consider.

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Can someone explain to me the purpose of FEMA? Individuals can buy insurance to repair/replace property damaged in natural disasters. States and municipalities can also buy insurance to replace and or repair damage. So, what does FEMA do except repair damage done for those too lazy or too stupid to buy insurance?

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PolitiFact, a formerly independent observer of the political scene, has moved left. Having won its Pulitzer Prize for independent reporting, it has more recently taking on the mantle of liberal views more akin to its sponsoring newspaper, the St. Peterburg Times, and can no longer be counted on as neutral. Like Walter Duranty, the Pulitzer Prize winner of the NY Times who was discovered years later to be in the pocket of the Stalin regime, it is possible to ride the Pulitzer for many years after it is discovered to no longer to be valid.

 

Great Explanation of Modern Europe, and Where The US Is Headed!

One of the greatest of the world leaders is Vaclav Klaus, who is not just the president of Czech Republic, he is also a Ph.D in Economics and is a professor of that subject.

Writing in the superb Imprimis publication, a product of Hillsdale College and a free publication you should subscribe to if you do not, Klaus wisely analyzes modern Europe (and by extension, the path we are following) thusly:

“Europe is characterized by a seemingly people-friendly, non-demanding, paternalistic and—in consequence—insufficiently productive economic and social system called die soziale Markwirtschaft, or social democracy. This system, with its generous social benefits, weakened motivation, shortened working hours, prolonged years of study, lowered retirement ages, diminished the supply of labor—both at the macro level and structurally—and led to very slow economic growth.

In Europe, we have witnessed a gradual shift away from liberalizing and removing barriers and towards a massive introduction of regulation from above, an ever-expanding welfare system, new and more sophisticated forms of protectionism, and continuously growing legal and regulatory burdens on business. All of these weaken and restrain freedom, democracy and democratic accountability, not to mention economic efficiency, entrepreneurship and competitiveness.

Europeans today prefer leisure to performance, security to risk-taking, paternalism to free markets, collectivism and group entitlements to individualism. They have always been more risk-averse than Americans, but the difference continues to grow. Economic freedom has a very low priority here. It seems that Europeans are not interested in capitalism and free markets and do not understand that their current behavior undermines the very institutions that made their past success possible. They are eager to defend their non-economic freedoms—the easiness, looseness, laxity and permissiveness of modern or post-modern European society—but when it comes to their economic freedoms, they are quite indifferent.

The critical situation in Europe today is visible to everybody. It is not possible to hide it. I had believed that this spectacle would be a help to the cause of political and economic freedom in Europe, but this is not proving to be the case. Of course, with the way your American government has been going, you might be able to catch up with us—in terms of our problems—very soon. But you are not as far along yet. So maybe seeing Europe’s crisis today will at least help you in America turn back toward freedom.”

This was reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.

All Hail, Mary Soo! (She too fed the poor!)

Politico tells me this morning: “Obama said that next week he will outline “a series of steps that Congress can take immediately” as part of “our urgent mission” to revive the economy.”

What exactly could the president propose that he could not have proposed last year? The year before?

This is just bizarre! There is no mystery of what causes an economy to grow, and it is no mystery as to what causes an economy to diminish.

In some alternative world, Democrats believe that you can grow an economy by bashing employer, placing unnecessary restrictions in their path, taxing them to death and enhancing the power of labor unions.

That is indeed a formula, but not a formula for building an economy.

I visited Hong Kong several times previous to the Communist takeover, and THAT was an economy. (Admittedly, the Communists were smart enough not to kill the Golden Goose.) Let me admit that the almost lassiez faire economy I saw would not be possible here – children and elderly worked because there was no welfare – but the closer we get to that economy the more the economy will grow.

I have told the story before of having our submarine scraped and painted by women who did so for the scraps from our mess hall! They did most US ships, and they were managed by Mary Soo. It was hot, smelly hard work – they scraped the barnacles collected from several months submerged in the South China Sea, and were dying in the hot Hong Kong sun – and they worked for table scraps!

It is amazing how people who are not paid to stay home, can find work.

In our rich society there is no reason why six-year olds must cut, sew, and paste custom made shoes – that is who helped make my custom shoes. There is no reason in our nation for 80-year old women to assist in sewing my wife’s cashmere coat, but in Hong Kong that was necessary for THEIR survival. There was NO unemployment, because unemployment meant not eating. Hunger is a great motivator! (Ask Mary Soo!)

There is a price every society is willing to pay for a civil society, but we have turned the safety net into a hammock.

 

 

No Surprise Here

The hurricane was less than expected, dangerous for certain but it didn’t live up to it’s hype and we should be ready for that by now. For more than a decade we nave not had the predicted hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico in either number or intensity that has been predicted.

They have been “predicting” hurricanes a lot longer than “global warming” — but I have remarked before about predicting in an environment with not just massive unknowns, but worse more unknowns than we know about or even imagine.

That is not to say that we should not continue to predict and refine the computer models, we certainly should, it’s just that we should not assign the term “science” to a flawed predictive model.