Posted by: bkivey | 13 April 2014

Great Moments in Management

I was once brought into a company as a change agent to fix a dysfunctional department. I was excited about the opportunity. Although the situation was challenging, I was confident I could bring about the necessary changes to restore the department. A year later, I’d accomplished that goal. I was (and am) proud of the work I did there, but there were a couple of things I knew before I accepted the job:

  • My boss had zero interest in any complaints about how tough the job was. My job was to deal with the situation as it existed. I assessed the situation, presented a plan, and followed through. As the process evolved, I’d consult with my boss about any needed corrections.
  • No one wanted to hear about the mess my predecessor had left me and everyone else. My job was to focus on what needed to be done and could be done. I kept a positive attitude and didn’t dwell on the past. I couldn’t do anything about the past; but I could influence the future.

Enter the 44th President of the United States. Barack Obama spent much of his campaign for the 2008 election promising to change the direction of the country (mission accomplished!). Ownership hired him, and he then immediately started whining about how tough the job was and how the prior Oval Office occupant had left him a big mess that poor little ol’ him had to clean up.

“But I don’t want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking. I want them to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess. I don’t mind cleaning up after them, but don’t do a lot of talking.”

Barack Obama, 7 August 2009

Things went on in this vein until about 2011, when he (or more likely, his advisers) realized that he’d been in office long enough that the statute on Bush-bashing had run. There was another election coming up, and if you want to win, you can’t very well blame yourself for the problems that still beset the country.

In late 2013 the much ballyhooed Obamacare started to roll out, and proved to be disastrous from Day One. Everything the critics (including me) warned about has come to pass, and the Administration’s signature legislation has become political Kryptonite. It is, quite simply, a mess of epic proportions.

On 5 April President Obama gave a speech in the Rose Garden during which he chastised those opposed to Obamacare and urged people to make the Affordable Care Act ‘even better’. The news report describes his tone as ‘annoyed’.

Say what?!

So, five years ago he was ‘annoyed’ that he had to clean up what he described as other people’s mess, and now he’s ‘annoyed’ that other people don’t want to clean up his mess? How does that work? Well, I guess it can work if you’re a narcissistic man-child with daddy issues, but for most people, that ‘thinking’ constitutes a clear paradox.

If you find yourself in a challenging management situation, keep your mouth shut, do your job, and remember the Fourth Rule of Management: You volunteered.

Posted by: bkivey | 12 April 2014

Readings From the Progressive Church

Book: I am a Shepherd. Folks like a man of God.

Mal: No, they don’t. Men of God make everyone feel guilty and judged.



Humans have an innate need to believe in a higher power, and those uninterested in the more conventional religions often gravitate toward the Church of Man, otherwise known as the State. Progressivism is very much a religion, and its church is Government. The problem is that government is a human institution, and thus magnifies human foibles commensurate with its size.

Most religions hold that the central deity is perfect, while the Progressive holds that their deity is perfectable by man. This is clearly not possible, as no system can be improved beyond its defining characteristics, and is one of the central paradoxes of Progressive thought. At some level Progressives have to know this, and they deal with the paradox not by seeking to elevate the individual, but rather to diminish them. Most religions encourage their adherents to better themselves by aspiring to an ideal, while the Progressive acolytes consider themselves to be that ideal, and seek to invoke feelings of guilt in others that they aren’t as enlightened as the Chosen Ones.

The most recent sin to gain attention from the Church of the State is the concept of ‘microaggression’. New York Times reporter Tanzina Vega recently wrote an article on the subject, and describes microaggression as

“. . . the subtle ways that racial, ethnic, gender and other stereotypes can play out painfully in an increasingly diverse culture.”

Ms. Vega’s article is fairly even-handed, and I have no problem with it (Ms. Vega is non-white. Is complimenting her work microaggressive?). I very much have a problem with the concept and the way some people actively seek to be offended. Reading the article, it’s clear that ‘microaggression’ is the ‘subtle racism’ of the 20 teens. There’s not much to complain about on the macro racism level, so some folks have to look for things to complain about.

Microaggression, like subtle racism, is very much about perception. And that’s the key. The standard is whatever the hypersensitive says it is. One young woman says

“It comes with undertones, it comes with preconceived notions.”

And another adds

“It’s almost scary the way that this disguised racism can affect you, hindering your success and the very psyche of going to class,”

The article notes that some microaggression may be ‘inadvertent’. Aggression, by definition, is a willful act, so if an act is not willfully executed, it can’t be aggression. That’s how the Progressive Church controls people: by changing the meanings of words so they can frame arguments to suit their purpose. But the article does quote one heretic. A Mr. Harry Stein notes that the use of the term

“suggests a more serious problem: the impulse to exaggerate the meaning of such encounters in the interest of perpetually seeing oneself as a victim.”

Amen, brother. In the Church, victim-hood is the replacement for sainthood. But rather than do good works or perform miracles, the exalted victim only has to make poor decisions or claim that others are ‘keeping them down’. Like much else in the religion of the left, recognition is inversely proportional to effort.

Unlike the more conventional religions, there’s no path to salvation in the Church of the State. As soon as one conforms to the demands of the leadership, new transgressions are revealed. The only real way to win is to refuse to worship the Progressive idols.


Posted by: bkivey | 5 April 2014

Lunching in the Nanny State

The 14 March edition of the local fishwrap of record contained a column by Progressive pundit Gail Collins on school lunches. Well, that was the hook: the actual substance of the essay is How the Evil Right-Wing is Waging War on Poor People.

Her column starts be referring to a 6 March speech Rep. Paul Ryan made to the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC). In the speech, Mr. Ryan stated that government welfare programs, exemplified by the Federal school lunch program, robbed people of dignity. Unfortunately for Mr. Ryan, he illustrated his point with what turned out to be an apocryphal example. The Left, hypersensitive to ‘gotcha’ opportunities when their opponents slip up (although not so much their own), gleefully pounced on this inconsistency. The resulting kerfuffle advanced the Left’s desire to obfuscate the salient point of the speech: that offering people assistance, however much it may be desirable to do so, does in fact diminish the recipient’s dignity. Long-term assistance turns people into little more than peasants reliant on the whims of others.

About halfway through her essay, Ms Collins states:

“But the basic idea of providing healthy subsidized meals for public school students used to be universally accepted. Like Social Security, or federally funded bridge reconstruction.

No more. These days, you can find vocal opposition to any federal program that gives something to poor people.”

This is the crux of Ms. Collins, and the Left’s, problem. Programs that started out with noble intentions shouldn’t ever be questioned, and any scrutiny is ipso facto evidence of evil intent. While the school lunch program isn’t in itself indefensible, the actions of people who have used it as a way to control others are.

“Every once in a while, a rumor crops up that an elementary school somewhere is prohibiting brown bags and forcing all its students to eat Obamafare. This does not actually seem to be happening.”

Except it totally is. Credible evidence can be found here, here, and here. It took me less than ten minutes to find information falsifying the last sentence in Ms. Collins paragraph. Does she think all her readers are as credulous as her?

As is usual where large amounts of money are involved, those tasked with administering the program have used the school lunch program to expand and abuse their power. The biggest abuse appears to be in the Federal Head Start program, which in 2011 banned home-made lunches for students. Among the reasons given:


  • it is harder to control keeping children with allergies away from problem foods since the schools cannot verify ingredients in homemade meals or keep track of each child’s food.
  • there is not enough staff time and space for meal prep and storage, much less keeping track of home meals brought in
  • schools do not want the liability of food safety of home-brought meals.

That home-supplied lunches may not be as nutritious as school officials might like was another factor.

Here’s a thought, school officials. What parents give their children to eat is none of your damn business.

Isn’t it remotely likely that parents may know what their child’s allergies are? If officials aren’t seeking control over others, what possible reason would they have for ‘keeping track of home meals’? And under what legal theory is an institution liable for private property? This is rent-seeking behavior facilitated by inventing problems.

The truth is that Progressives see everyone as wards of the State. The State is mother, the State is father. Everything is political, meddlesomeness is disguised as ‘caring’, and people who stand up to this corrosive behavior are literally labeled ‘Enemies of the State’.


The header this month is a photo I took years ago at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. This year’s festival runs the entire month of April. If you’re in Seattle or Vancouver, BC, this month, take a day to check out the tulip fields. It’s a stunning sight.

Changing Browsers

About three years I took on a computer consulting job that required me to use Mozilla Firefox. I liked it better than Internet Explorer, and have used it since. I’m going to have to change, though, because Firefox has displayed an inability to handle scripts. Like, at all. Entering a search term is a crap shoot, because if the search result has a script, the browser comes to a screeching halt. I’ve been using Chrome, which works well enough. It’s a pain in the ass, though, as all my bookmarks are in Mozilla.


Posted by: bkivey | 31 March 2014

Opening Day 2014

No matter that orbital mechanics and the calendar determine the transition from Winter, it’s not by-God Spring in the US until Opening Day. For baseball fans whose teams didn’t make the playoffs last year, it’s been a long six months enlivened only by activity in the hot stove league. Now, it’s time for the Boys of Summer to play ball.

As MLB has been wont to do the last several years, the season unofficially opened oversees. This year it was the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks playing a series in Sydney, Australia starting 22 March. How MLB determines the exhibition teams is somewhat opaque, unless they figured that Australians might be interested in a team named for a venomous reptile.

I follow the Seattle Mariners, although that’s been a tough job for a while. The Mariners added a big stick with the signing of 2nd baseman Robinson Cano, and he’s also expected to shore up a defense that was porous at times last year. Mariner pitching features the 1 – 2 punch of Felix Hernandez (12 – 10 3.04 ERA 216 K) and Hisashi Iwakuma (14 – 6 2.68 ERA 185 K). Unfortunately for the team, Iwakuma is on the 15 day DL with a finger injury.

Las Vegas projects the Mariners winning around 80 games this year, which would be an improvement over last season, but still no better than 4th in the AL West, which is where they finished last year. As of this writing, the Mariners are a 1/2 game ahead of Texas, which given the history between those teams, may be the largest lead of the year.

It’s been 11 years since the Mariners reliably posted winning records, and there have been only two successful campaigns since then, with the most recent coming in 2009. It’s going to be interesting, and hopefully fun, to see how this team gels in the next couple of months. I’d be happy to see a .500 year.

Posted by: bkivey | 27 March 2014

Power, Leverage, and Control

The past several weeks the world has witnessed something not often seen since the end of the Cold War: the annexation of land by a neighboring power. Sure, Crimea held a referendum on joining Russia, but when your home is occupied by foreign troops, your voting may not be entirely unbiased. So Crimea is firmly in the Russian orbit, with parts or all of Ukraine likely to follow. As distasteful as the actions are to the West, they also illustrate the shifting of world power away from the US and Western Europe to Russia and China, and the West has only itself to blame.

For the past five some years, the so-called ‘Leader of the Free World’ has done pretty much everything possible to diminish American, and by extension, Western, influence. By word and deed, the man who ran for office in 2008 by painting George Bush as a diplomatic albatross has, when he can be bothered with it, operated US foreign policy through the delusional lens of Progressivism. This worldview treats foreign relations as distractions from the real work of social justice and ‘fairness’. The British and the Germans have expressed annoyance with this diffident attitude, while other allies have become increasingly nervous, especially in light of current events. Those powers with interests inimical to the US have seized a rare opportunity.

Candidate Obama focused his presidential campaign on the domestic issues dear to his base, and only passingly referred to foreign obligations, and then usually as a dig at the incumbent. I don’t recall any great pressure from the press on his views on foreign policy. A not surprising development from an institution that was completing the transformation from watchdog to Party apparatchik. President Obama’s concentration has been on domestic policy: “fundamentally transforming America.” And he has succeeded, with consequences plain to anyone with an understanding of human nature, but to which Progressives are blind.

President Obama has repeatedly said that he wishes for a world in which the US isn’t a hegemony, but where nations will negotiate as equals. This desire is at odds with the way the natural world operates, and in fact contradicts the Progressive mindset. Progressives may pay lip service to equality, but they see themselves as first among equals. For the Progressive, Animal Farm isn’t a cautionary tale: it’s an operating manual.

In much of the animal world, especially among the higher orders, there is a dominant individual in a given group. This has no moral value, it just is. As much as Progressives would like to ignore it, humans are part of the natural world, and we can no more deny our evolution than any other animal. Nature abhors a vacuum, and if one entity cedes power, another will take its place. All the talk of ‘equality’ and ‘fairness’ is just so much bushwa. The natural world selects for dominance, and we ignore that at our peril.

Now we are at a time when the US has ceded much of it’s moral, economic, and military authority. The Administration’s responses to the Crimean situation have been laughable, to the extent that they are openly mocked by Russian officials. Given this Administration’s record, appealing to the ‘rule of law’ is prima facia laughable. The Obama administration just doesn’t seem to understand that the Russians aren’t impressed with the Cool Kids, and are in fact forming their own club, one that doesn’t include the US.

One can only influence events to the extent that one has power, and power comes from leverage. US leverage vis a vis the Russian situation is rather small. The President has ruled out military action, and I can’t argue against that. The Russian Bear is not to be trifled with. But Western Europe imports a lot of energy from Russia, so they aren’t going to be too receptive to sanctions, and the Russians hold a fair amount of US debt, which they have threatened to call. The Russians have also threatened the real nuclear option, which is disconcerting. That kind of talk is usually expected after the onset of hostilities. That the Russians are confident in using it illustrates the contempt they have for this President.

It’s not surprising that the Russians are confident. They’ve watched a leader of the US who doesn’t even like the country he was elected to lead. Why should they be worried? If they act against the interests of the US, it’s probably A-OK with Mr. Obama. So congratulations, Barry. You’ve reduced the US to a second-rate power. Too bad we all had to take the ride with you.

Posted by: bkivey | 22 March 2014

Education Reform?

One of my problems with American public K-12 education is the high emphasis placed on putting students into college. A lot of education professionals judge their ‘success’ by how many people go to college post high-school. No matter that students may not be competent or knowledgeable about the course of study: if they aren’t going to college, the system has failed. I noted that college isn’t necessarily a good idea for some folks, and there is talk about fast-tracking students out of high school into college. I think that judging the effectiveness of an educational system by how the percentage of people going on to college is a poor metric, and judging by US rankings in student achievement, that emphasis isn’t working.

The overwhelming majority of education professionals are to varying degrees left of the political center, and US public education policy shows it. Progressives consider themselves the intellectual elite, and by golly they know better than you do what you should do with your life. But Progressives are really about control. Can’t have people making their own educational and vocational decisions. They probably won’t make the right ones, so college for everyone! They’ll make more money, and after four years of Progressive indoctrination, they’ll think like us.

One of the problems with this thinking is that not all jobs require a college education. Sure, most jobs paying a decent wage will require education beyond high school, but not all. And employment prospects aren’t necessarily enhanced by a college degree.

The local fish wrap of record published an article on employment prospects in the state over the next ten years. The expected five fastest growing job fields and minimum education to enter:

  • Physical Therapist Aide High school diploma and OJT.
  • Painters High school diploma and OJT.
  • Marketing Specialist Bachelors degree.
  • Physician Assistant Masters degree in a specialized program.
  • Roofer High school diploma and OJT.

Huh. Three of the five fastest growing jobs require no college at all. Maybe we should look at job fields that are expected to have the most openings in the next ten year:

  • Registered Nurse Bachelors degree.
  • Cashier None.
  • Server None.
  • Food Prep Worker None.
  • Retail Sales None.

Well, that doesn’t fit the education establishment’s narrative at all. While it’s true that if someone starts in a service field after they turn 18, they’re probably going to need a diploma, there are a lot of high school students working in service. I suppose the paper better hope that disaffected high schoolers can’t read. Not that that’s such a farfetched proposition.

A sign that the narrative may be cracking comes from an editorial published in the local paper’s 21 March edition (not yet available online). Author Jim Nesbitt posits that there may in fact be value in students learning trade skills. Drawing heavily on Matthew Crawford’s 2009 book Shop Class as Soulcraft, the editorial’s thesis is that some folks may find greater fulfillment in making and fixing things than shuffling paperwork. He notes that there are many ways to economic and personal satisfaction, and that as a society we’ve marginalized tradecraft, and by extension, those who choose to engage in it. That this should come as some sort of revelation is a sad commentary on our society.

I’ve had careers as a maker and a fixer and white collar professional. While I enjoyed the more cerebral vocation most, I’ve found measures of fulfillment in all those endeavors. Most of the things I’ve done for a living would make a rewarding career. A healthy society needs to provide as many socially valued paths to personal economic independence as it can. American society has for too long heeded the siren song of the Big Education mantra. Perhaps we can restore some balance in our valuation of career and education choices.

Rent Comparison

I recently saw a table listing the top 5 American cities with the most expensive average rent in 2013. There were some surprises.

  1. New York Well, duh.
  2. San Francisco I’ve lived there. Not surprised.
  3. San Jose Silicon Valley, I imagine.
  4. Oakland – East Bay Quality-of-life must have improved a LOT.
  5. Palm Beach Say what?! Palm Beach ranks below Oakland?

I was most surprised that Honolulu (another place I’ve lived) didn’t crack the top five.

Soccer Terms

The Portland Timbers played the Colorado Rapids today, and lost 2 – 0 in a snowstorm. I listened to the game on the radio, and wondered about a bit of terminology. The announcers refered to players ‘handling’ the ball. In a game where using hands is verboten, is this really the best term?

Posted by: bkivey | 13 March 2014

Frere Jaques

I can be engaged in a task, and my brain seems to think it’s not fully employed, so parts of it go wandering off into the Concept Warehouse and start fooling around. At some time I’ll be presented with a concept that I was completely not thinking of. Sometimes I can turn these ideas into money, most of the time it’s entertainment. This is probably one of the entertainment times.

Frere Jaques is a French nursery rhyme taught to me by my French teacher mother. We were raised on French nursery rhymes and games, and in the 3rd through 5th grades I took French on a weekly basis. Language is a ‘use it or lose it’ proposition, and I could not now hold a conversation in French if I had to; I would do much better with Spanish.  I can recognize French when I see it, and tend to pronounce some words in the French fashion (see ‘foyer’).

For some reason my brain decided to start riffing on Frere Jaques, and so we have:

INT Hollywood producers office. Two writers pitching a movie.

“It’s high concept. A monk in the 18th century has to keep his town from getting blown up. Think Speed.


“Yeah. If the abbey bells don’t keep ringing, a bomb will go off. The hero suffers from, what do you call it. He falls asleep.”


“Yeah, that’s it. He’s narcoleptic. Anyway, if this guy can’t defuse the bomb, the town will get blown up.”

“What do the bells have anything to do with the bomb?”

“There’s a warlord outside of town. Think Clint Eastwood in ‘High Plains Drifter’. Bells don’t ring; town goes boom.”

“Does this monk have any explosives knowledge?”

“We’ll address that in production. Important thing: he falls asleep at the drop of a hat.”

“What’s the love interest? We have to address the 18 – 34 female demographic.”

“I have a name. Lea Michelle. She’s hot and she fits the part.”

“Who’s directing?”

“Micheal Bay”

“I’ll greenlight the script.”

And 18 months later:

Frere Jaque Movei Poster

Trailer #1

V/O: In a world of chanting monks and ringing bells, one man remains undisturbed.

Frere Jaques

Matins. Lauds. Vespers.

Frere Jaques

Unperturbed. Undisturbed. Unawake.

Frere Jaques

Sonnez les matines; indeed.

Trailer #2

Int. bar 18th century France. Two young people having a pint.

“So, how’s the album going?”

“Not so good. I’ve been stuck on some songs. A & R had to bring in a tunesmith to polish some lyrics.”

“Who’d they get?”

“I’m glad you’re sitting down. They brought in Frere motherfucking Jaques!”

“Get the fuck out! Frere “The Sleeper” Jaques?! I didn’t know he was with the label.”

“Neither did I! Man, I was like, totally awestruck!”

“That must have been awesome!”

“It was. He’s everything you’ve heard. I’m sure at least one song will top the charts.”

V/O: Ding. Dang. Dong. Coming soon to a monastery near you.

Posted by: bkivey | 11 March 2014

The Cool Kids Club

Since my mid-20′s I’ve thought that most people affiliated with the Democrat Party because of peer pressure. Most people form their political views in their teens and twenties, and nothing is more important to most young people than peer acceptance. If you look at what the Democratic Party has traditionally stood for, and the way prominent members comport themselves, it’s hard to make a case on the merits:

  • May 30, 1854 Democrat President Franklin Pierce signs Democrats’ Kansas-Nebraska Act, expanding slavery into U.S. territories.
  • May 22, 1856 For denouncing Democrats’ pro-slavery policy, Republican U.S. Senator Charles Sumner (R-MA) is beaten nearly to death on floor of Senate by U.S. Rep. Preston Brooks (D-SC), takes three years to recover.
  • October 13, 1858 During Lincoln-Douglas debates, U.S. Senator Stephen Douglas (D-IL) states: “I do not regard the Negro as my equal, and positively deny that he is my brother, or any kin to me whatever”; Douglas became Democratic Party’s 1860 presidential nominee.
  • April 16, 1862 President Lincoln signs bill abolishing slavery in District of Columbia; in Congress, 99% of Republicans vote yes, 83% of Democrats vote no.
  • April 8, 1865 13th Amendment banning slavery passed by U.S. Senate with 100% Republican support, 63% Democrat opposition.
  • April 3, 1944 U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Texas Democratic Party’s “whites only” primary election system.
  • November 6, 1956 African-American civil rights leaders Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy vote for Republican Dwight Eisenhower for President.
  • May 6, 1960 President Dwight Eisenhower signs Republicans’ Civil Rights Act of 1960, overcoming 125-hour, around-the-clock filibuster by 18 Senate Democrats.
  • The party most restrictive of free speech: Democrat
  • The party most restrictive of economic mobility, primarily through the enrollment of as many as possible in government programs: Democrat
  • The party most reliant on identity-politics and the Balkanization of America: Democrat
  • The party most likely to use children as political operatives: Democrat

If one looks at the evidence, it’s hard to believe that any sane person would support the party of oppression. But tens of millions do, including large blocs of those whom the party has treated in the worst possible way. How can this be?

My opinion is that Democrat supporters are mostly, if not entirely, teenagers. Perhaps not chronologically, but certainly emotionally. And nothing is more important to most teenagers than to be one of the Cool Kids.

The teenage years are when children really start to develop their own identities, and distance themselves from their parents. This is normal and healthy and necessary in the development of a well-adjusted human. During this period, the child looks for ways to rebel against their parents, but still wants the security provided by those same parents. This creates a bit of intellectual dissonance that the child must reconcile. Supporting the Democrat party provides and easy (and lazy) way to do that.

Democrats position themselves as advocates of the disenfranchised (my parents are always telling me what to do), champions of the downtrodden (they’ll make people be nice to me), providers of succor to the oppressed (free stuff!), and always emotion, emotion, emotion. It’s much easier to feel than to think, and like most organisms, people tend not to want to work too hard.

There’s also the ego-boost involved with being part of the club; a big attraction to the generally powerless teenager: “All my friends think this way, and I don’t want to be different. And, I get to tell people what to do!”

So people go through life thinking they’re special because they’re part of something that appeals to teenage sensibilities. Some people mature and realize that the adult world is far different from the insular and self-referential teenage one. These people are called ‘adults’, and understand that it’s not all about them. They understand that a successful free society involves self-sacrifice and a willingness to accommodate others, a modicum of personal responsibility, and that not every damn thing is their business.

There was a time not so long ago when American society valued the competent adult over the Cool Kid. Irreversible social changes have reversed the field, but as more people watch their role models cluelessly flounder from one crises to the next, and regularly outmaneuvered on the international stage, they may find themselves valuing the adults more.

Weather Watch

As we approach the vernal equinox, our weather has warmed considerably. Two weeks ago highs in the mid-40′s were the norm; now we’re seeing highs in the mid to upper 50′s. Trees are blooming and plants are showing new growth. We’ve still got three months of grey skies ahead, but it feels like winter is truly over. A month ago we had this:

Snow outside apt 1402.06

6 February 2014

Snow from apt 1402.08

8 February 2014

Icicles 1402.08

The icicle in the middle was over three feet long.

I Love Snow 1402.08

A sentiment not universally shared.

Posted by: bkivey | 10 March 2014

Orwellian Freedom

In recent weeks the Administration has been ballyhooing the individual mandate of the ACA (Obamacare) as a way to increase personal freedom. The logic goes that because health care insurance is now decoupled from a particular job, people gain more control over their lives. It’s a brave new world where work is unnecessary. You can paint! Hang out in a coffee shop! Start a new business! But you’re guaranteed to have access to health care, and not suffer the golden handcuffs of company-supplied health care insurance. The very clear implication is that work is necessary evil.

The Administration’s message is true is far as it goes, but the depth is thinner than the veneer on cheap furniture, and serves the same crap-masking function. Some people may even believe in the veracity of the Administration’s messaging, while remaining blissfully unaware that:

  • Most people don’t work because they have to, they work because they want to. As a general rule, people like to be doing something. If they’re not engaged in productive activity, they’re going to find something to do. Idle minds and Devil’s workshops. How much more satisfying and healthy to engage in meaningful work than to passively absorb the efforts of others.
  • While some people feel they are tied to a job for the benefits, this percentage isn’t nearly as great as Progressives would have you believe. My experience is that most people accept that their skills early in their careers qualify them for a paycheck and little else. As they gain experience and expertise, they can move on to jobs with better benefits. And as most people mature, they take on greater life responsibilities that shift their focus to things like saving plans and healthcare benefits. A small percentage of the workforce may well find themselves in a position where they can’t get the same benefits they’ve become accustomed to outside their current job, and so feel ‘locked in’. I think this is more of an artificial barrier, because:
  • Nearly every company benefit offered can be obtained on the private market. Health care plans have always existed outside those offered by companies. While it’s true that the plans would generally be much more expensive than those offered ‘in-house’, it’s not like they’ve never existed. The same is true of savings plans, retirement accounts, and the like. It really comes down to priorities. If a person feels that the company benefits are too good to forgo and so they can’t make a job or career change, that’s more of a personal choice. It may be a problem, but not a societal one.
  • The idea that providing health care insurance, whether through direct payment or by subsidy somehow frees people to make choices that were previously unavailable is outright false. People have been pursuing avocations with an eye toward turning them into vocations since time began. Most people in the creative arts had to work some sort of regular job while they honed their craft. A lot of small business owners started part-time until they could afford to quit their previous job. Starting a new career takes ambition, perseverance, determination, and no small amount of faith. Making health care plans available isn’t going to suddenly endow a person lacking those qualities.
  • When government requires the purchase of a product as a condition of citizenship, that in no way, shape, or form enhances personal freedom. In fact, it diminishes it quite a bit. What this Administration has done is tell people that they are required to buy a product that costs more than many can pay, is full of ‘features’ that they may not be able to use, and oh, by the way, if you don’t buy it, we’re going to fine you. But look how much freer you are!


I’m not a fan of graffiti, especially on railroad cars, as they’re no great beauties to start with, but this one is pretty good.

covered hoppper graffitti


An image of a rainbow I saw today. There’s a faint double arc at the top: something I hadn’t noticed at the time.

faint double rainbow

Posted by: bkivey | 5 March 2014

Minimum Expectations

The Federal minimum wage has been in the news lately, as activists from the President on down have been agitating for an increase from the current $7.25/hr. Proponents of raising the wage point to increased income and buying power, while those opposing claim that an increase hurts job growth and raises prices. Both sides have valid points.

The Federal government got into regulating wages through the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The justification for government interference in what was previously a contract between private parties was to provide for the “maintenance of the minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being of workers.” Which sounds good, but like many Big Government programs, almost immediately ran into problems. From the official ‘History of Changes to the Minimum Wage Law’:

Early in the administration of the FLSA, it became apparent that application of the statutory minimum wage was likely to produce undesirable effects upon the economies of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands if applied to all of their covered industries.

The document doesn’t elaborate on what those ‘undesirable effects’ were, but one may imagine from more recent anecdotal evidence that they involved a decrease in jobs. So we have an official document from the U.S. Dept. of Labor saying in so many words that imposing a fixed expense on a business results in ‘undesirable effects’. Huh. Who would have thought?

Proponents for raising the wage claim that forcing businesses to raise the least they can pay an employee leads to improved living standards. While this may be superficially true, those same businesses will increase prices to cover the increased costs, and may well reduce staff or not hire, forcing those still employed to work that much harder.

Realistically, as a mandated minimum wage rises, those with few or no skills are going to find it increasingly difficult to find employment. A 16 year-old with no job skills just isn’t worth $10/hr. They probably aren’t worth the $9.10/hr. mandated by the state I live in. Even if the teenager is willing to work for less, the employer cannot legally accommodate them.

One of the misconceptions surrounding minimum wage is that it’s supposed to provide a ‘living wage’. While the language in the original legislation might give that impression, the fact that the first Federal minimum wage was set at $0.25/hr. ($4.02/hr. today) belies that assumption. If Congress at the time had really wanted to ensure a ‘living wage’, they would have set the minimum to $0.65/hr.

Many of the examples trotted out by the media to garner sympathy involve people working low-end jobs or multiple jobs. I am not impressed. I worked two jobs through most of my 20′s; sometimes two full-time jobs, more usually a full-time and part-time job. I didn’t see it as my employer’s responsibility to pay me more. I knew what the jobs paid, and I voluntarily took them. If I wanted more money, I got a better paying job or took on more work. Honestly, if you’re even halfway good at a job, more remunerative opportunities will present themselves. It just takes a little bit of ambition to seek them out.

The current Federal minimum of $7.25/hr. probably does need to be raised: when I started working full-time, the minimum was $3.10/hr., which translates to $8.50/hr. today. But it is frustrating to see so many people who want to sit back and force others to do for them what they should be doing for themselves.

Today in History


  • 1558 – Smoking tobacco introduced in Europe by Francisco Fernandes
  • 1770 – Boston Massacre, British troops kill 5 in crowd. Crispus Attackus becomes 1st black to die for American freedom
  • 1836 – Mexico attacks Alamo
  • 1894 – Seattle authorizes 1st municipal employment office in US
  • 1907 – 1st radio broadcast of a musical composition aired
  • 1946 – Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech (Fulton Missouri)
  • 1955 – Elvis Presley’s 1st TV appearance on “Louisiana Hayride” show



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