United Steel Workers defending Koch Brothers?!

This rates as the flying pig moment of the day. While the (doctrinaire libertarian, not conservative) Koch Brothers have become the bugbear of the left in general and of the unions in particular, Red State’s Labor Union Report reports a defense of the Georgia-Pacific owners from a very unlikely source: Jon Geenen, VP of the United Steelworkers union.

In a post entitled A Well Intentioned Bad Idea on the union’s website, Geenen points out that, among other things:

  • while he does not defend the Koch brothers’s political positions, these are hardly news, as they have been at this for 40 years (continuing the anti-Communist activism of their father who learned first-hand what Communism was like, trying to run a factory in the former Soviet Union)
  • their plants are actually highly unionized, they pay their many employees very well, and management and unions have traditionally had a very good relationship
  • they are among the few major employers in manufacturing that actually choose to create and maintain jobs in the USA rather than outsource them overseas
  • as the company is privately held and there are no stockholders to frighten, a boycott would be a pointless exercise in self-gratification at best (which, of course, I increasingly suspect to be the true essence of left-liberalism)

Go read the whole thing. Keep in mind, of course, that Geenen represents the dwindling private sector unions, and takes a position at variance with other unions that primarily represent government and quasigovernmental employees. Outside the USA as well their positions are not always in lockstep.

Blog plug: Raising Asperger’s Kids

And now for something completely different:

One of my tweeple, aspergers2mom, runs a very interesting blog about her experiences raising two sons with Asperger Syndrome. If you have children or relatives with AS, autism, ADD/ADHD, or PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified), you will find a lot of good stuff there. And if you have friends/significant others who just drive you up the wall with their geekishness, the blog may also be helpful: the line between a real serious geek and a mild AS case is quite blurry. (Like with many things psychological, the difference between a personality trait and a personality disorder — or an intellectual idiosyncrasy and a developmental disorder — is mostly a matter of degree rather than kind.)

Check out today’s post especially. Thanks so much for sharing, Elise.

Pink Floyd in Venice, “Comfortably numb”

Pending some time to blog, here is a music video from a huge open-air concert Pink Floyd played in Venice in 1989. The video was captured from a TV broadcast (which I saw at the time)

One of the songs played was the classic “Comfortably numb” (from The Wall). The sound quality of the video doesn’t do it justice, but David Gilmour’s heart-rending guitar solo starting at 4:53 literally had me in tears the first time I heard it. The song is, in a way, about being trapped in a prison of one’s own making, and Gilmour chillingly evokes precisely that. There are players with much stronger or versatile technique, but at his own game, Gilmour is in a class of his own. (Here is the solo by itself, although it really needs the song to set the mood. And here is a rare version featuring David Bowie as the guest singer.)

WordPress iPad view stinks

I am an avid iPad user (as my computers are generally taken over for work when I am near them at all) and am all for making website iPad-compatible. However, the latest trend in making sites iPad-friendly — i.e., have cutesy iPad app-like views when logging in from iPads — is one I could do without. WordPress yesterday suddenly rolled one out that clearly wasn’t all kosher — as I learned to my chagrin when trying to type long comments on the iPad, which appeared to be posted but were in fact sucked down /dev/null.

I have therefore temporarily turned on comment moderation until I have a workaround or can spend more than two minutes at a non-work computer. And to the WordPress crew: you’ve got a great product, but remember Voltaire’s saying “le meilleur est l’ennemi du bien” (perfection is the enemy of goodness). A saying that various social engineers and crusaders for cosmic justice would do well to take to heart.

Unsung hero of the week: Hideaki Akaiwa

This man’s actions would make for a nice action movie script. but they are for real. See also here (via Insty).

Akaiwa said he was at work a few miles away when the tsunami hit, and he rushed back to find his neighborhood inundated with up to 10 feet of water. Not willing to wait until the government or any international organization did, or did not, arrive to rescue his wife of two decades — whom he had met while they were surfing in a local bay — Akaiwa got hold of some scuba gear. He then hit the water, wended his way through the debris and underwater hazards and managed to reach his house, from which he dragged his wife to safety.

“The water felt very cold, dark and scary,” he recalled. “I had to swim about 200 yards to her, which was quite difficult with all the floating wreckage.”

With his mother still unaccounted for several days later, Akaiwa stewed with frustration as he watched the water recede by only a foot or two. He repeatedly searched for her at City Hall and nearby evacuation centers.

Finally, on Tuesday, he waded through neck-deep water, searching the neighborhood where she’d last been seen. He found her, he said, on the second floor of a flooded house where she’d been waiting for help for four days.

“She was very much panicked because she was trapped with all this water around,” Akaiwa said. “I didn’t know where she was. It was such a relief to find her.”


WOW: no country effectively “soaks the rich” more than… the USA?!

Tax law professor Paul Caron has some eye-opening data on his blog.

You see, high marginal personal income tax rates are one thing: but “soaking the rich” in this manner, regardless of whether or not this is moral, is a mere exercise in intellectual self-gratification unless it actually brings in more revenue. As a rule, “the rich” have much more access to (legal) tax evasion/tax exposure minimization tools and techniques than the average citizen — quite aside from the fact that an overtaxed rich person may simply decide to voluntarily reduce his income and enjoy more leisure time (“going Galt”).

A more objective measure for how much any given country “soaks the rich” or “leans on the rich” would be how great the share they contribute to total tax revenue is relative to their share of total earnings. The study quoted by Dr. Caron considers the top decile (to 10% earners), across the OECD. (Israel is not on the list as it was only just admitted to the OECD.)

On average, across the OECD, the top decile (top 10% earners) bring in 28.4% of all income, and contribute 31.6% of all tax revenue. 31.6/28.4 yields what I might call a “revenue contribution coefficient” (RCC) of 1.11, where values below 1.0 would represent a windfall to the “rich”, values above 1.0 would represent “leaning” on them, and 1.0 would be neutral.

Now admittedly, in the USA, the top decile earns 35.1% of all income (considerably higher than the OECD average), but they also contribute… 45.1% of all tax revenue. This leads to an RCC of 45.1/35.1=1.35, the very highest in the OECD. Australia (RCC=1.28) and the Netherlands (RCC=1.25) come 2nd and 3rd in the OECD, respectively, while, surprisingly, famously “high-tax” Belgium, Sweden, and Norway all have RCCs below one!

The real world is rather different from economic fantasyland.

Happy J. S. Bach Day!

Today, the first day of spring and (roughly) the vernal equinox, J. S. Bach would have been 326 if he still were alive. His body is gone, but his music lives on forever. “Bach is the beginning and end of all music” (Max Reger; more quotes about Bach here).

Bach was an avid experimenter with the musical technology of his day, and I’m sure he’d appreciate modern synthesizers. Below are two performance of one of his organ fugues (in G major, BWV 577, nicknamed “the jig” as it is in a jig/gigue rhythm): one on a conventional pipe organ, another on a battery of synthesizers.