URLs du Jour

2009-03-11

  • And people wonder if The Road to Serfdom is out of date.

    Everything which might cause doubt about the wisdom of the government or create discontent will be kept from the people. The basis of unfavorable comparisons with conditions elsewhere, the knowledge of possible alternatives to the course actually taken, information which might suggest failure on the part of government to live up to its promises or to take advantage of opportunities to improve conditions—all will be suppressed. There is consequently no field where the systematic control of information will not be practiced and uniformity of views not enforced.

    From the WSJ today:

    Big Labor's drive to eliminate secret ballots for union elections has united American business in opposition, so labor chiefs are putting on the brass knuckles: The new strategy is to threaten companies with government retaliation if they don't stop lobbying against turning U.S. labor markets into Europe.

    Also see the MinuteMan with comments on the new progressive attitude toward free speech.

  • In Slate, Christopher Beam attempts to address the "secret ballot" issue of the (so-called) "Employee Free Choice Act":

    Does the measure eliminate the "secret ballot" in union elections? Business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce say yes. (Warren Buffett has voiced his concern as well.) Labor groups like the SEIU and AFL-CIO say no. Which is it? Would the bill eliminate the secret ballot?

    The short answer: yes. Although Beam tries to put as much pro-union spin on his article as possible. Example:

    The problem is, the secret ballot isn't so secret. In reality, labor leaders argue, it's hardly the democratic process suggested by its name. During unionization campaigns, companies routinely hire consultants to explain to workers, during work hours, why starting a union is such a bad idea. These consultants can also hold one-on-one meetings with workers and ask them how they plan to vote.

    Careful readers will note: nothing about company-hired consultants, or meeting with employees makes the secret ballot any less secret.

    Yes, companies can urge their employees to vote against the union. So?

    Businesses defend this practice as "free speech." But unions see it as intimidation or, at the very least, an imbalance in influence. Union officials can lobby workers, too, but only outside the workplace. Hence the stories about goons showing up at your door during dinner. (Reported cases of intimidation by employers vastly outnumber those by unions.)

    … mainly because it's unions doing the "reporting," I would imagine.

    But Beam then drops another clear non sequitur:

    The upshot for a worker is: By the day of the election, both sides know how you're going to vote.

    The obvious rejoinder is: if and only if you tell them. You can refuse to say. You can say you haven't decided yet. You can even lie; you aren't put under oath.

    Bottom line: if EFCA passes, say goodbye to the secret ballot.

  • But as Betsy Newmark points out, there's another gotcha in the EFCA: automatic mediation of labor disputes. She quotes a DC Examiner editorial:

    Former Bush Labor Department officials Vincent Vernuccio and Loren Smith, Jr. correctly point out that [EFCA] thus gives union negotiators little incentive to bargain in good faith, knowing that their every outrageous demand would be a starting point for the binding arbitration most likely conducted by government bureaucrats. Said arbitrators would have sole discretionary power to force employers to make concessions far beyond what they would otherwise accept. Small businesses with limited resources would be particularly vulnerable to this new form of government meddling. The bill even bars workers from overriding their union leaders and terminating the binding arbitration process even if doing so would save the company and everybody's jobs. This is progress?

    Only if by "progress" you mean taking power out of private hands and putting it in those of the state.

  • For another bit of "progress" in that vein, the US Senate yesterday voted to kill the small voucher program for District of Columbia kids. (For Granite Staters: Senator Shaheen voted to kill it, Senator Gregg voted to preserve it.)

    At Commentary, Jonathan Tobin does a good job of eviscerating the hypocrisy of (mostly) Democrats on this issue. Specifically, President Obama's:

    This happens to be a man who is sending his own two adorable children to a private school, not the awful D.C. public schools that he is trying to "protect" from voucher advocates. In fact, the Sidwell Friends School that his daughters attend has a number of recipients of the D.C. voucher plan. Though Obama says he wants the kids who are currently in the program not to be chucked out, he doesn't want any voucher children to be there in the future. He wants to deny other kids whose parents are not as wealthy as Sasha and Malia's parents the same chance for a decent education.

    Sorry, folks. When it comes down to a choice between the teachers' union and you: you lose.

  • I scored 14 out of 16 on the BBook of Geek Movies Quiz. See how you do.


Last Modified 2012-10-08 1:01 PM EDT

In the Electric Mist

[3.0
stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I'm a huge fan of author James Lee Burke and his series of novels featuring Louisiana police detective Dave Robicheaux. One of his best was In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead. And, in addition, ever since I read the first entry in the series, my mind's eye always pictured Tommy Lee Jones as Dave Robicheaux.

So when I heard they were making a movie version, with Mr. Jones in the Robicheaux role, I was pretty psyched. Even if they amputated three words from the title, it was one of the rare movies I would have hit the theater for.

But I waited, and waited, … eventually, the movie went straight to DVD here in the US. Still excited, though, I put it right at the top of my Blockbuster queue, and … eh.

The plot is faithful to the book: Dave is on the trail of a sicko who has killed a local prostitute. A movie is being filmed in the area; one of the stars discovers long-dead corpse of a black man in the Atchafalaya swamp. As is usual in Burke's work, these two deaths have connections that enmesh Dave in a lot of psychic grief.

It's an OK movie, but several notches down from where I wanted it to be. I can't really put my finger on the reason. The casting is great, the location is right, … It may have been they were too faithful to the book while neglecting the little elements of magic that make a good movie.

Still, it was better than Heaven's Prisoners, where Alec Baldwin played Dave's role. Sheesh.


Last Modified 2012-10-08 1:19 PM EDT