People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Men Walk On The Moon

For you history buffs out there, I thought I'd let you take a look at this. It is a copy (the entire newspaper; not just the front page) of the Saigon Post dated Tuesday, July 22, 1969. My brother, Steve, was serving in Vietnam at the time and bought it on the streets of Saigon because it chronicled the historical significance of the day. He sent it home and it has been in my possession ever since.

To me, it has enormous historical value because:

(1) It was printed the day the first human being in history (Neil Armstrong) ever set foot on the moon.

(2) The Saigon Post no longer exists.

(3) Saigon no longer exists.

(4) South Vietnam no longer exists.

It is very cool.

Click on image to enlarge.
Photo courtesy of the Republic of South Vietnam.Posted by Hello


Women have this unexplainable power over men. It drives me crazy. All they need do is dress up in a Little Bo Beep outfit (with that alluring slit up the side of the dress; maybe some black stockings) or cook stuffed pork chops with biscuits and milk gravy, and guys go stupid.

I learned (the hard way) to resist such temptations, knowing that, if I succumbed, the end-result was always destructive.

My son-in-law is still working on building up a tolerance against such enticements. And in the case of his acquiescing (caving in) to my wife's and daughter's wishes when it comes to my smoking cigars, he has folded.

You see, we celebrated my birthday last weekend and it has become a tradition (well, at least for the last couple of years) for him to get me a box of cigars as a gift. This year I got a bottle of wine and another of port. Now I'll admit they weren't your average Boone's Farm kind of swill. One was a bottle of Kracher Scheurebe Trockenbeeren Auslese (Austrian) and the other was Fonseca Vintage Porto 2000 (Portuguese) and they set him back plenty. And I appreciate them immensely.

But no cigars.

He even made a point of saying, in front of the two culprits-in-residence, that he had made a point of not supporting my habit; by not buying me any cigars. Aarrgg.

Don't get me wrong. The Auslese was the best I've ever had (and I'll freely admit here to having had vats-full over the years) and the Port (which goes great with an Arturo Fuente Hemingway!) is my all-time favorite brand.

It's the thought that my son-in-law was so weak as to give in to the beguiling ways of ... women.

I have a lot of work to do.

Hang All The Capitalists

I read the following, a column written by a Brandon Guichard for Collegiate Times, entitled "Conservatives should not tout free market" (link), and became bemused at the lack of understanding of ... me.

Collegiate Times, as I understand it, is published for, and by, Virginia Tech students. With that knowledge in mind, I'm reluctant to be too hard on Master Guichard; he is still in learning mode. But his conception of what a capitalist is astounds me.

Here is how his article begins.

Here we go again. Just as sure as the sun will rise in the east and set in the west, economic conservatives will sing the praises of their second-favorite god, the free market. As they worship all that is good in capitalism, they condemn labor unions and minimum wages for crippling our economy. They blame welfare and the “redistribution of wealth” as the reason why poor people refuse to work and continue to be a leech on society. They laud productive members of society, such as corporate executives, and fault the average worker for not trying harder to reach similar levels of success. Economic conservatives love to kneel at the altar of Wall Street and damn the wickedness of Washington’s attempts to regulate business. The role of government is not to protect American workers but to bow before the market, they say. (link)
Ah, the passion of youth. I'll skip any mention of his "the role of government is ... to bow before the market, they say," and I'll take his charges seriously.

Brandon, I have been an economic conservative and a capitalist for many years so I'm going to take the liberty of speaking for all of us.

First, where on earth are you getting your information?

(1) We don't condemn labor unions. We often ridicule them for being myopic and rigid as they attempt to cling to what little of the American workplace they still occupy. But most of us see a healthy need - in certain circumstances - for collective bargaining. For what it's worth, I was, by God, a probationary pipefitters apprentice in Local 157, Plumbers and Steamfitters myself one summer as I worked my way through college (I dug ditches ...). So I have an insider's understanding of trade unions (Well, not really. It lasted only three months.) By the way, your timing may not have been the best since your article came out the same week General Motors and Ford, both heavily unionized, found their bond ratings sink to "junk" status amid speculation that GM will ultimately have to declare bankruptcy, and seeing their market share being gobbled up by non-union Toyota.

(2) Most of us don't waste our time talking about the minimum wage. It is on America's periphery these days. We prefer to talk about high-tech skilled jobs being filled with a highly motivated, well-educated workforce. 75% of minimum wage jobs are part-time and the others are transitory, meaning they are held by people (teenagers mostly) looking for other work. So the impact minimum wage jobs have on our economy is minimal. Besides, Wal-Mart and McDonald's are solving that problem for you. As each hires (thousands) more young people and pays them all an amount greater than minimum wage to start, they are driving many of the locally-owned, inefficiently run businesses out of existence. And it is mostly the mom-and-pop businesses that traditionally pay minimum wages. I know it's heartless to talk about Wal-Mart putting Ernie's Bait and Tackle out of business but, in the long run, Ernie's employees will get better pay and a healthcare plan at Wal-Mart.

The thrust of your lengthy article is found in this paragraph, I think.

One of the goals of economic conservatives has always been to abolish minimum and living wages. They argue that raising the minimum wage of the common worker will cause employers to scale back on the number of employees they hire, thereby making the working class worse off. Simple economics, they say. Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the Economy Policy Institute, argues against this. Bernstein investigated claims like these, including reviews of numerous studies regarding minimum wage increases and its effects. He found that 12 states have raised their minimum wage above the federal standard. Comparing these states to those that have maintained the $5.15 federal minimum wage, the studies revealed, “employment elasticity that hovers around zero, i.e., they solidly reject conventional hypothesis that any increase in minimum wage leads to job losses among affected workers.”
It's true we prefer to abolish the minimum wage. Because it serves no great good, and only serves to create upheaval for the few remaining smaller companies that still pay minimum wage, when they find themselves having to actually implement mandated wage increases.

As to the quote, "they solidly reject conventional hypothesis that any increase in minimum wage leads to job losses among affected workers," let me cite a source you may turn to for first-hand knowledge of that conventional hypothesis. Me.

A number of years ago, when the labor pool was vast and there wasn't the intense competition for employees that we have today (It's the boomer/generation x'er phenomenon), there were millions more minimum wage jobs. I oversaw hundreds of them. If memory serves, Congress upped the minimum wage (again) in 1988. In order to comply with the law, I recognized that the outlay reflected on my profit and loss statement devoted to payroll was going to jump.

Stick with me here.

I needed to offset that increase in expenditure somewhere. I couldn't raise our prices. Our (stiff) competition wouldn't allow it. I couldn't go to our suppliers and demand a reduction in the cost of our inventory. I did that on a regular basis. I couldn't reduce the outlay for real estate, utilities, taxes (!), or operating costs. They were fixed. I could have reduced expenditures for advertising and the like, as some competitors who are now out of business did, but I knew I'd be cutting our corporate throat had I done that.

So I did the responsible thing. I reduced the workforce. I brought my payroll costs back in line by eliminating people - and worked like hell to increase productivity from those remaining. You want to refer to a study? Email me. I'll give you the names of the innocent souls I canned because of my effort to implement the increase in the minimum wage - and
keep everyone else employed.

And another thing. A side effect to this effort to comply to federal management of my business, one not often discussed, was this:

When I raised the hourly pay of those making minimum wage, others making a bit more fumed about the fact that they didn't get a raise of any kind. Those making more per hour were doing so for a reason. They had proven themselves to be valuable, loyal, competent people; the kind a good "capitalist" wants to keep. People who were, over the years, given merit raises. They were the first people who we should have reviewed for a raise, rather than the new-hire that was more expendable. I know that's a harsh way of putting it, Brandon, but capitalism, unlike its extreme opposite, communism, and academe for that matter, is a harsh environment (but, unlike communism, which is now found on the ash-heap of history, capitalism survives - thrives - today). So, we put pencil to paper and were able to come up with an increase in wages for all our help.

And that forced me to let a few more people go.

I'll explain to you some other time how all this eventually works itself out, leading to the results obtained and touted by your source, the Economic Policy Institute.

I'll not go into your discussion of the poor except to say this: I've provided economic opportunity to more poor Americans than you ever will. My greatest success story happens to be Director of Operations for one of the USA's best-run corporations. I promoted him from an hourly position into management a number of years ago - because he convinced me that he had the intelligence, the organizational skills, the self-discipline, the focus, the ambition, and the understanding necessary to make the company and himself successful. Oh, I should mention, I expected him to make me successful as well. Don't ever forget that underlying greed motive in capitalism.

I'll also not go into what I think of the whole "living wage" trumpery except to say, what you might consider a living wage as a college student won't make my car payment. We have totally different conceptions of what "living" is. And that is as it should be.

In the meantime, if you're willing to learn of that which you eloquently speak, I refer you to opposing opinions from Matthew B. Kibbe, Alan Reynolds, Edward H. Crane, Doug Bandow (who wrote, by the way, "No serious economist doubts that the minimum wage destroys jobs. The only question is how many. Economists Richard Burkhauser, Kenneth Couch and David Wittenberg estimate that every 10 percent increase in the minimum reduces employment by between 2 percent and 6 percent. They figure Congress' 1996 minimum wage hike cost between 153,000 and 457,000 teens their jobs.), and (I'll stop with) David Card and Alan B. Krueger.

So, what to take away from all this? Do the research. Look through the data. Join us in the real world.

Who'd A'thought in the Year 2005 ...

For those of you who live in the outside world, you would probably be a bit taken aback to learn that politicians here in Appalachia still, in the year of our Lord 2005, make it a practice (allegedly) to buy votes with the promise of liquor, cigarettes, and beer - and pork rinds. And it (allegedly) works.
Questionable votes
By Laurence Hammack, Roanoke Times

In the town of Appalachia, some people say they were offered alcohol or cigarettes for their votes in a local election.

APPALACHIA — At first, Christina McKinney just laughed at the suggestion that she sell her vote for a pack of cigarettes and a bag of fried pork skins.

Then McKinney started hearing stories from her neighbors in Appalachia: They too had been approached by a supporter of a town council candidate, she said, and offered beer, booze or cigarettes in exchange for their votes.

One year later, a state police investigation into the election continues.

"You're talking about messing with an election," said Rick Bowman, a candidate for Appalachia Town Council who learned of the vote-buying allegations while campaigning in McKinney's low-income neighborhood.

"You're talking about the heart of democracy." (link)
It may involve the heart of democracy, Rick, but we're also talking about a bag of pork skins, man. Even I would be tempted by that.

I'm kind of surprised, this area being the center of the world's methamphetamine manufacture and use, that local politicians aren't pushing drugs to a receptive public.

Call it expanding the voter base.

We Own The Miserable Thing

If I were to go into the business of producing a television broadcasting network, it sure as heck wouldn't be remotely close in either content or delivery to PBS. It is, at any given hour of the day, insufferable. Unwatchable. Boring to tears.

PBS is also, as everyone knows, elitist, leftist, and bi-coastal. It produces shows that few people watch. In a highly competitive arena, PBS heads know they don't have to "run with the big dawgs." In fact, with guaranteed support from the government, they know they can produce tedium and horse excrement and have nobody watch. The funds will still come pouring in.

One of the mysterious incongruities of life is that I'm paying for it. Dearly. And I have no doubt that I'll be paying for it the rest of my life.

But there is a movement afoot to "evaluate" the relative "fairness" of PBS broadcasts. Not to change the network in any way, mind you. They go through this exercise occasionally just to keep the owners (us) placated.

Still, as Brent Bozell makes clear in an article entitled, "'Alleged' tilt at PBS," the attempt has the left all aflutter.
The old news: PBS is still a liberal monstrosity transforming the hard-earned dollars of many Bush-loving taxpayers into fire-breathing Bush-loathing programming. The new development: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting plans to seriously seek better balanced political views on PBS.

From the sound of the New York Times front page on May 2, they must have been waving smelling salts in the face of liberal reporters.

Kenneth Tomlinson, "Republican" chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was said to be pressing aggressively to correct "what he and other conservatives consider liberal bias." The Times approach, pretending this issue is a gigantic question mark, makes about as much sense taking exception to what "conservatives consider the blue color of the sky."

So what has Mr. Tomlinson done to deserve Page One coverage in the New York Times? He plans to have two ombudsmen look over the content. Stop the bloody presses. (
Of course the show's content will not change. And maybe it shouldn't. After all, if America's few thousand remaining liberals quit watching, it will then have absolutely no viewership.

Grunge Invades Cuba

My God. What kind of impression have we made on the Cuban people?

U.S. band gives outdoor concert in Cuba
By JOHN RICE, Associated Press Writer

HAVANA (AP) -- The American group Audioslave broke decades-long barriers with a thundering concert before thousands of Cuban fans - who knocked over barriers to
get closer to the first U.S. rock band to play an outdoor concert in Cuba.

Chris Cornell's scream - "I won't do what you tell me!" - boomed off the high-rise apartment buildings on south side of the stage Friday night as feedback shrieks from Tom Morello's guitar drifted into the night breeze over the Caribbean to the north.

Officials often cite Billy Joel's 1979 indoor performance as a rock and roll landmark here.

But elemental grunge, thrash and metal are the most popular styles of rock on an island rich in its own complex, polyrhythmic popular music.

Audioslave had the whole crowd screaming and dancing when it went back to its frantic, pounding, grungy roots, but left those in the back merely toe-tapping on some of the newer, less frantic songs.(

So how was the band received by the rock-n-roll starved Cuban populace?
"We would like to have stronger music - bands like Metallica," said a gaunt man sitting alongside friends on the Malecon seawall who gave his name as Walter Delgado, 32.
Can we sober up and recruit Metallica to our foreign diplomatic corps?