Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Today we have another minimum-wage tidbit and another hypocritical big-city politician!  (I know, big surprise, right?)  Baltimore Mayor Supported $15 Minimum Wage Until She Learned What It Would Do to City’s Economy.  Excerpt:

During the 2016 campaign, Catherine Pugh was one of dozens of Democratic politicians calling for the implementation of a $15 per hour minimum wage.

Since being elected mayor of Baltimore in November, though, Pugh has changed her mind about the merits of forcing employers to pay such a high hourly rate. Last week, Pugh announced she would veto a $15 minimum wage bill passed by city council, citing concerns about how it would hurt the city’s economy, nonprofits and charities working in the city, and the city government’s bottom line.

After doing “some research,” Pugh said at a press conference on March 24, “it is not appropriate at this time that I will sign this bill, so I am vetoing this bill.”

Pugh said the bill would not be in the best interest of Baltimore’s 76,000 unemployed workers and would drive businesses out of the city to the surrounding counties.

Pugh obviously had what we used to refer to as a sudden rush of brains to the head.  (I may be being a little too generous.)   I’m pretty damn sure Mayor Pugh was considering the sudden increase in cost of the city’s union-scale employees; union contracts are frequently tied to a percentage over the prevailing minimum wage.

The really amazing thing here is finding a politician that realizes that the laws of economics (supply and demand, anyone?) can’t be overridden by good intentions and a sense of what’s “fair.”

But there’s a twist:  Pugh has been a business owner.  Unlike a lot of big-city pols, she has had to produce product and make payroll; she owned a public relations firm and a TV station.

Maybe this will be another nail in the coffin of minimum wage laws.  There is no real economic or moral justification for a law that freezes low-skilled workers out of the market – which is precisely what a wage floor does.

Animal’s Daily Icons of Rock News

Thanks again to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

It’s no news to any long-term readers of these virtual pages that I’m a fan of old head-banging rock & roll.  To that, here are a few songs that stand out in the rock & roll universe; unforgettable songs that will last for generations.

The first:  An American success story of six guys from the Midwest who realized the American dream, and made a great American classic rock song along the way.  Here is Kansas with Carry On Wayward Son. 

Next, a song that not only ended up on my list of icons of rock, but also in a scene immortalized in Wayne’s World.  This is Queen with Bohemian Rhapsody.

Next, from the album Bat Out of Hell, here’s rock big boy Meat Loaf with Paradise by the Dashboard Light.

One more; a while back I listed my top five guitar players.  I’m not as up on drummers, but I do know one thing:  Neil Peart stands alone.  Here he is with the rest of Rush with YYZ.

I’d like to do Icons of Rock once a month or so.  Suggestions are welcome.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

A 20-mile long ‘spacescraper’ dangling from an asteroid: Could it work?

Not sure I’m buying it – not with current building materials.  Excerpt:

Clouds Architecture Office espouses a dream-big-or-go-home philosophy with its plan to construct the world’s “tallest building ever.” The 20-mile high (or long) megastructure would dangle from an asteroid suspended by a cable system tens of thousands of miles long.

A number of engineering hurdles stand in the way, so would-be atmospheric settlers of tomorrow will have plenty of time to save up for a down payment. Nevertheless, today’s humble surface-dwellers may see inspirational value in proposing such castles in the sky, regardless of their feasibility.

Clouds AO’s “Analemma Tower” riffs on the concept of the space elevator, an orbiting counterweight tethered to Earth by an unimaginably long cable that, once built, could provide more affordable access to space.

But rather than a fixed line to the ground, the firm proposes an apartment building hanging off the lower end of a very, very, very long cable attached to an asteroid. The entire system would orbit at the same speed the Earth turns, so it could hover over a relatively narrow area, rather than zipping around many times per day, like the International Space Station does.

Now, I’m saying this as a guy who once wrote a sci-fi book in which a planet-to-low-orbit space elevator called a “Skyhook” figured heavily.  But at least that scenario depended on future technology that enabled the builders to ‘grow’ carbon fiber nanotubes.

(What’s fun about writing science fiction is the abandon with which we just make shit up.)

But let’s just assume for a moment that this suspended tower notion could be built.  Imagine what will happen when something inevitably goes wrong.  Hopefully the dangling skyscraper (skydangler?) won’t be over a populated area when the cable somehow breaks.

The very thought would be enough to give Damocles nightmares.

Rule Five Death and Taxes Friday

Holy shit!  It’s now costing taxpayers 6.1 billion hours and $234 billion a year in tax compliance!  Excerpt:

Taxpayers spend 6.1 billion hours a year just to comply with the federal tax code, according to experts at a Tax Foundation event on Monday.

Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union, said that tax compliance costs taxpayers $234 billion per year in direct costs and lost productivity.

“The problem is the status quo—thinking that, well, if we don’t do tax reform this year it will just be that bad,” Sepp said. “No, the status quo is not the static quo—it’s going to get worse.”

“The paperwork burden inventory at the Office of Management and Budget related to Treasury is expected to rise by another 2 billion hours in the next few years,” he said. “One-third added to that, we’re looking at tax compliance costs of north of $400 billion a year.”

Sepp admitted that the failure of the Republican health care reform bill, with its projected deficit reductions, will make it more difficult for Republicans to pass a tax reform bill.

“This is the important point right now, it’s an especially important one in this current post-Obamacare repeal environment,” Sepp said. “We now have about a trillion dollars of baseline problem now that we didn’t think we would have before assuming Obamacare was going to be repealed.”

“That’s going to make tax reform a much tougher task,” he said. “It also means we’re going to have to find other ways of making every single simplification measure count, more so than it ever would have needed to count in the past.”

House Republican leadership withdrew the American Health Care Act on Friday ahead of a scheduled vote, following President Trump’s request that the legislation be pulled. Trump said tax reform would be the next item on the agenda.

A number of words come to mind; “obscene” is one, “insane” another, along with several less pleasant pejoratives.

So, what is the GOP leadership planning for tax reform, and how will it help this utter disaster?  Well, here’s the plan put out by Republicans on the key Ways and Means committee.  Some key items include:

  • Save time and money by making it so that most Americans can do their taxes on a form as simple as a postcard.
  • Consolidate the system down to three tax brackets, and lower the top individual income tax rate to 33 percent.
  • Simplify tax filing for families by creating a larger standard deduction and a larger child and dependent tax credit.
  • Cut taxes on small businesses by creating a separate, low tax rate of 25 percent for many on Main Street.
  • Cut taxes on savings and investment by allowing families and  individuals to deduct 50 percent of the dividends, capital gains, and interest received from stocks and mutual funds.
  • Provide a tax-free return on new investment by allowing, for the first time ever, full and immediate write-offs.
  • Restore American competitiveness by lowering our corporate tax rate from the highest in the industrialized world to 20 percent and shifting to a “territorial” system with more competitive rates.
  • Create more certainty by eliminating the death tax, which can take up to 40 percent of a family business’s assets if the owner passes away.

House Democrats are calling this cruel, unusual, mean-spirited, draconian, and lots of other things.  Here at the Casa de Animal we call it falling short of the mark.

Seriously, Republicans; you’ve been handed a historic opportunity.  Screw this up and you’ll likely receive the same sort of shellacking in 2018 that the Democrats got in 2010 and 2014.

Don’t blow it.  This isn’t the time for half measures.  Fix the damn tax code once and for all.  The entire damn tax code shouldn’t be more than twenty or thirty pages long.

Fix.  The.  Damn.  Thing.  Now.

Animal’s Daily Pacific Theater News

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scrapping that nation’s long-standing 1% of GDP defense spending cap.  Why?  Read on.  Excerpt:

Worth defending.

English-language resources hardly address the subject, but the 1 percent policy (which is not law) was, next to the constitution itself, one of the most tenacious obstacles restricting meaningful defense reform in Japan. Like the glacial five-year Midterm Defense Plan system Japan currently utilizes for defense spending, the 1 percent restriction was an antiquated feature that needed to go. Its origins, stretching back to 1976 and reflecting a Japan seeking to halt runaway Cold War defense expenditures, worked for Japan’s own particular situation and era; that of a Japan which turned toward a Japan-based U.S. forward presence as a main deterrent to the Soviet Union, abstaining from both expensive standing armies and pricey nuclear forces. Times have clearly changed.

There is only one immediate implication of this policy adjustment: we can expect Abe to raise the defense budget as high as he and his administration dare beyond 1 percent of GDP. Despite the removal of this significant barrier, Japan’s emaciated defense budget still faces multiple hurdles if it is to grow in order to meet East Asia’s rapidly changing defense environment. First and foremost of these hurdles is the power and entrenchment of the Ministry of Finance. While the Japanese constitution clearly gives the Diet the role of passing a budget, whether or not that budget survives the process is up to the Ministry of Finance.

This article, though, doesn’t mention the one thing that really has to be on Prime Minister Abe’s mind of late, defense-wise, and that is the stunted fat little gargoyle with bad hair from a long line of stunted fat little gargoyles with bad hair who run the isolated Stalinist state of North Korea.

It’s not news that the bat-guano crazy Norks have been increasingly bellicose of late.  Given their drive to weaponize their nukes and their penchant for launching missiles as “tests” in Japan’s direction, re-militarizing may be the smartest thing Japan can do right now.

Also worth defending.

And that might be good for us, too; Japan has kind of forgotten it in the past seventy years or so, but they are a nation with a strong martial tradition, and a muscular Japan – who is, incidentally, at present our best ally in the western Pacific  – might be beneficial to U.S. interests in the region.

It’s also highly doubtful that the Trump Administration will seek to dissuade our friends should they move down this path.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Thanks again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

USA Today columnist Glenn Reynolds has a point; Why aren’t bills on infrastructure, tax reform and free speech lined up like planes on a runway?  Excerpt:

Talking to a friend at lunch not long ago, he expressed his amazement that the House and Senate leadership didn’t have bills “lined up like airplanes on a runway” ready to take off in the new year. I was surprised, too.

It’s not like the need to do something about Obamacare was a surprise. Republicans have been promising to repeal it for most of a decade. And it’s not like Obamacare was popular or successful. Premiums are rising, providers are dropping out, and costs are going up. It’s true that the Obamacare bill, pushed through on a procedural technicality that avoided a filibuster but left it impossible to fix at the time, was a mess. It’s also true that the legislation was drafted, and the regulations implementing it were designed, in part to make it hard to undo.

Nonetheless, the Republican inability to deliver a bill that could get a majority in the GOP-led House is a colossal failure, and pretty much undercuts its entire reason for being. For years the congressional GOP leadership failed to deliver on promises to constituents, and offered the excuse that it couldn’t do anything without control of the White House. Well, they’ve got that, so what’s their excuse now? And where are the bills on infrastructure, on tax reform, on free speech?

The congressional GOP’s failure to deliver on its promises is one of the things that led to the election of President Trump. Now they’re still failing. What comes next?

 What next, indeed?  The GOP had eight years – eight friggin’ years – to get ready for this opportunity.  A political pundit with the skills of, oh, say, Rachel Maddow, should have seen this moment coming; they GOP has held the House and Senate for a while now, and it’s a rare thing in the American political scene for a party to hold the Imperial Mansion for three terms.  They should have had a plan.

Maybe it’s the years I spent associated with the military that make me frustrated about this.  A few years back some leftie croaker was told that the Pentagon has file drawers full of plans for an invasion of Iran, to which the rational response was “of course they do!  That’s their damn job!  They probably have plans somewhere to invade Canada.”

It’s prudent to be prepared for any eventuality in that business, and in the political business as well.  But it seem the election of President Trump caught the GOP completely wrong-footed.

We have a failed health care bill.  We have no infrastructure bill.  We have no  tax reform bill.  We do have some minor legislation in the works, and we have a concealed-carry reciprocity bill… somewhere.

But seriously, folks.  This stuff should have been lined up ready to go on Day One.  All Speaker Ryan should have had to do was slam down the gavel and yell “Go!”

There’s an old saw that goes “I don’t belong to an organized political party.  I’m a Republican.”  Never has that been more true than now.

Animal’s Daily Massive Footprint News

Holy custom footwear, Batman!

Article here.  Excerpt:

It was found among an “unprecedented” 21 different types of dinosaur tracks and dwarfs a metre-long footprint discovered in the Gobi desert by a team of Japanese and Mongolian researchers.

Palaeontologists from the University of Queensland and James Cook University said their find was the most diverse array of dino footprints in the world.

The remains were unearthed in rocks aged up to 140 millions years old in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Steve Salisbury, lead author of a paper on the findings published in the Memoir of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, said the tracks were “globally unparalleled”.

He added: “It is extremely significant, forming the primary record of non-avian dinosaurs in the western half of the continent and providing the only glimpse of Australia’s dinosaur fauna during the first half of the Early Cretaceous Period.

A modern-day dinosaur.

I remain as fascinated by dinosaurs as I was as a little tad, and have made a point of staying abreast of new discoveries.  I’m also fond of correcting folks who say that dinosaurs are extinct; they aren’t extinct at all.  In fact, there are more species of dinosaurs around today than there are species of mammals.

We call them birds.  Birds are dinosaurs, specifically, they are coelurosaurs, a branch of the theropods and therefore cousins to the raptorian dinosaurs and the iconic Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Still, fascinating as they are, I’m just as glad most of the non-avian dinosaurs aren’t around any more.  Imagine a sauropod big enough to make the footprint shown above; one animal could block the interstate for half an hour just crossing over.  And some of the big carnosaurs wouldn’t be too much fun to have around, either.

Still – a big bull T-rex – what a hunt that would be!

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Our usual Monday thanks go out to Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links!

Moving along:  How do you make a car out of corn?

Trade.  Excerpt:

The purpose of an automobile factory is not to “create jobs,” as the politicians like to say. Its function is not to add to the employment rolls with good wages and UAW benefits, adding to the local tax base and helping to sustain the community — as desirable as all those things are. The purpose of an automobile factory is not to create jobs — it is to create automobiles. Jobs are a means, not an end. Human labor is valuable to the extent that it contributes to human prosperity and human flourishing, not in and of itself as a matter of abstraction.

There are cases in which this is so obvious that practically everybody understands it. When we talk about building new pipelines (and good on the Trump administration for getting out of the way of getting that done), our progressive friends sometimes sniff that many of the new jobs associated with that work are “temporary.” (“Temporary jobs” is a phrase usually delivered with a distinct sniff.) Here is a little something to consider: Unless you are building the Second Avenue Subway in New York City, all construction jobs are temporary — buildings get built. Projects come to completion, and work gets finished. It is in the nature of construction jobs to come to an end. And it is not only construction: A technology-industry friend attending the recent National Review Ideas Summit in Washington bluntly shared the view from Silicon Valley: “All jobs are temporary.”

Here’s the real money (hah) line:

Consider another kind of machine, a more limited one: Bryan Caplan’s magical idea for a machine that turns corn into cars: “Lo and behold — corn goes in, and cars come out.” It will not ruin Professor Caplan’s M. Night Shyamalan moment to reveal the twist ending to his story: There is such a machine, and it is called trade. “What difference does it make what’s inside the factory?” Professor Caplan asks. “For all intents and purposes, trade is a kind of technology, a creative way to reduce our cost of living and thereby raise our standard of living.” Trade — and capitalism — is in fact a machine of a different sort: a social machine.

Here’s the thing; as I’ve said many times in these virtual pages, “capitalism” is a misnomer.  There really is no “-ism”  in capitalism.  It’s just what people do with their own wealth, their own resources, their own skills, talents and abilities when they are left unchecked to make their own choices and enjoy and employ the fruits of their own labors.

In other words, liberty.

President Trump isn’t perfect on this score, as this article points out.  But he’s better than the alternative we had last November, not just on taxes and trade, but on plenty of other issues; Her Imperial Majesty would have been the most damaging President liberty-wise since…  well, ever.

Sometimes the choice between good and bad is far less stark than the difference between bad and worse.

Deep thoughts, news of the day, totty and the Manly Arts.