Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Keep It In The Raincoat, Professor Hawking

Brightest Galactic Flash Ever Detected Hits Earth

Nothing from Nothing Leaves State Taxpayers Paying More

The Montana legislature has a really bad idea: setting a retail minimum wage at $22,000 a year. Friends, Montanans, and countrymen, that's a $10 an hour minimum wage. Rationalizing:
    Wal-Mart pays its workers such low wages that they qualify for state welfare benefits subsidized by Montana taxpayers, people told a Senate committee Tuesday.

    As an incentive for these "big box stores" to pay a living wage to their workers, Sen. Ken Toole's Senate Bill 272 would impose a gross proceeds tax on these companies. They would be exempt from the tax if they paid their employees an entry level wage of at least $22,000 a year, counting both pay and benefits and if less than half of their workers were part-time.
Because legislators would prefer that the workers receive only state welfare benefits, which is the choice that legislators are making.

The socialists chirp:
    "State taxpayers are subsidizing Wal-Mart's payroll," said Kim Abbott, lobbyist for Working for Equality and Economic Liberation, a low-income advocacy group. "It's ridiculous."
    Gene Fenderson of the Montana Progressive Labor Caucus agreed, saying "The Wal-Marts, Targets, Home Depots are not paying their fair share of taxes for the amount of wealth they extract from our states and the services they demand."
Because business is the chupacabra of society, and the government and the 'progressives' who want to forcibly redistribute wealth according to their whims are doing good.

This bill, should it pass, would yet again prove that the government is a Keynesian flat tire, loudly slowing economic progress.

(Link seen on Rocket Jones.)

Ne'er The Twain Shall Meet

The St. Louis Post Dispatch suffers from cognitive dissonance. Every once in a while, they post stories about companies leaving St. Louis, such as this analysis piece from February 5: Does loss of company HQs hurt St. Louis?:
    St. Louis lost yet another homegrown corporate headquarters last week with the announced buyout of Pulitzer Inc.

    And if the swirling rumors about a buyout of May Department Stores Co. are to be believed, an even larger corporate base could quickly follow Pulitzer out the door.

    But while the region's business leaders grit their teeth, they must ponder this question: Job loss aside, does it really matter if a corporation no longer calls your city home?
So they gnash their teeth for a bit, but then they jump on the bandwagon for the local labor whenever a local union strikes. Oddly enough, the Post-Dispatch cheerleads local labor strife and at any given time, the Post-Dispatch has at least one high profile dispute to rah-rah. Why, in 2004, we had:

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Auto dealer mechanics

Newspaper Guild (oddly enough, since that union struck against the Post-Dispatch, the paper was less eager to stick it to The Man)

Boeing Machinists


Grocery workers (end of 2003, I know, but it doesn't seem that long ago)

So why would a corporation come to or stay in St. Louis, a labor-friendly town that supports entire workforces stopping work for days, weeks, or months on end? Perhaps the tax incentives that the local and state governments favor and the Post-Dispatch lauds.

The climate for business, particularly the manufacturing and blue collar businesses whose employees the Post-Dispatch champions, is difficult, murky, and prone to the whims of organized labor and government largesse. Why would a corporation base its business here?

The Other Lost Season

This looks a lot like the NHL, but it's the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra:

Musicians refuse to vote on latest offer

When music returns to Powell Hall, will the players be around to play?

How come no one's floating the idea of a salary cap or tying the musicians' salaries to revenues? Because they're artists? They're artists for a starting salary of $70,000 a year in a break-even or worse venture often propped up by public funds.

Perhaps the musicians' union bosses are onto something. It's just like sports, and perhaps the musicians should be paid accordingly.

Friday, February 18, 2005
Book Report: Demolition Angel by Robert Crais (2000)

There you go. It's remarkable how, if you read enough of an author, particularly if you read them consecutively, you can pick up on the author's particular speech habits and how they translate into the author's work so that many different characters say the same thing. Robert B. Parker fans know about his particular tics, which are almost inside jokes after thirty years. "There you go" represents Robert Crais's tic. Elvis Cole says it, and in Demolition Angel, a non-Cole character says it, so I expect Crais says it himself.

This book centers on a former bomb-squad detective investigating a case wherein a nationwide hit bomber has struck--or has he? The detective has issues of her own, as she's not been the same since nearly dying in a bomb blast. When an ATF agent comes to help with the investigation, he's not what he seems; when the bomber-for-hire comes to town, his motives are surprising and his relationship with the detective is not too thrilling.

It's a good change of pace from the Elvis Cole novels; although Heather informs me that the characters reappear, the book represents a self-contained entity. Although technical information and extra flourishes of insanity bog the book down, it's not as bad as complete chapters which detract from the central storyline. So I like it better than the last Elvis Cole novel.

I look forward to finishing the remaining three Crais novels so I can get on with the rest of my life.

Think of It as Invoicing for the Service of Silence

Longtime reader, friend, and now cash cow Cagey writes in:
    I was doing a Google Image search on the simple topic "legs" and there on page 6 of the results was your lovely wife. Looks like she was dusting the hood or something...
Heather had mentioned getting a large number of hits from this particular Google image search, and we speculated about the type of person who would just search for legs and go through lots of pages of hits. Apparently, the answer is a happily-married person with a lucrative engineering career who can afford some hush money if he doesn't want his wife to know what kind of image searches he does.

Now excuse me while I investigate PayPal's policies regarding receiving payment for silence services rendered.

They'll Get Action, All Right

Pay floor boost goes to council: Supporters say move will prompt state action:
    A Milwaukee Common Council committee voted 4-0 Thursday to support an increase in the city's minimum wage, a move that advocates hope will pressure state lawmakers to OK a statewide increase.

    The measure, which goes to the full council Tuesday, would raise the minimum wage in the city in two steps, first from $5.15 an hour to $5.70 an hour as of Oct. 1. A year later, it would rise to $6.50 an hour.

    The steps are the same as those proposed in March by a bipartisan commission appointed by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. That group's recommendations, based on a compromise among business and labor groups, have been stalled in the Republican-controlled Legislature, as GOP leaders have said the proposed increase is too high.

    Critics said the city would be foolish to increase its minimum wage when surrounding communities have the lower state wage. They argued that it would cause some businesses to look elsewhere.
I'm with the critics. You know what's going to happen? Let's examine the unintended consequences:
  • Service will suffer in all city businesses, from restaurants to the Grand Avenue Mall shops, as employers will stretch existing employees to cover more tables, more hours, more customers. How do you think customers will react? There's an Applebee's in West Allis, and if there's not, one's looking for space right now.

  • Young people who might have taken summer jobs to silence their parents will have excuses to not find jobs (which don't exist) and will have to amuse themselves, possibly by participating in the bash mob fad.

  • People who want or need these jobs, whether as primary jobs or second jobs, will have to commute to the suburbs, spending twenty five minutes in an unsafe beater car like my brothers immortal Frankencar (no relation to Al) or ride the White and Green Limosine (the MCTS buses, now celebrating its first homicide ever) for an hour. Either one wastes time better spent on reading, spending time with children, or preparing a meal that doesn't come from a box or a window.
I think the politicos achieve their goals with the boost, though: currently employed people get more money for no more effort, and the politicos get more votes for spending someone else's money.

Thursday, February 17, 2005
When Canadians Miss Hockey

World's Longest Hockey Game; after 6 days and 2 hours, the score is 1295 to 1159.

It's a charitable event for cancer research, so click on over and donate if you're amused. Also check out the media clips.

(Link seen on Hockey Pundits.)

Northern Border Not Secure, Either

Alanis Morissette Becomes U.S. Citizen.

Cripes, now we can't deport her.

Hot Sellers in Nigeria

JC T-Shirts: They could be hot sellers in Nigeria!

That's what I assume from this e-mail I received:
    We want to order some product from your store to our store in lagos,Nigeria.First of all,we will like to know maybe you shipp via (USPS GLOBAL EXPRESS 4-5 DAYS DELIVERY SERVICE).And the method of payment will be made by major credit card. Kindly respond to this enquiry as soon as possible.Looking forward to hearing from you soon.
    Best regards.
Accept a credit card payment and drop ship to Nigeria? What could possibly go wrong?

But you, gentle reader, can still order any of these snazzy designs through Cafe Press:
Visualize World Hegemony
Visualize World Hegemony
Cog in the Machine
Cog in the Machine
Tao Sharks
Tao Sharks

Post-Dispatch Finds Big Government 'Republicans'

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has dug deeply and found some 'Republicans' incensed about Governor Blunt's government cuts:
    Malinda Terreri, a homemaker from Ballwin, contends that Gov. Matt Blunt is ill-informed and pursuing "a path of political suicide."

    Rajesh Shah, a Creve Coeur physician, accuses the governor of displaying "a lack of maturity" and "playing the 'class' card" for political gain.

    Both are Republicans who said they voted for Blunt in the fall. They might not do so again.

    Blunt angered them and thousands of other parents when the cost-cutting measures he outlined with his State of the State address included eliminating the state's First Steps early childhood program.
What kind of parents/Republicans are they?

    The media-savvy parents have held a news conference, packed a Jefferson City hearing room, appeared on television and flooded the phone lines and computers of the governor and legislators with hundreds of calls and e-mails protesting the plan.

    Terreri, the mother of a 3-year-old boy with autism, quickly set up an Internet site - The site has collected more than 40,000 signatures on a petition to preserve the program, and also features a forum where backers regularly post their irritation with the governor's proposal.
The kind directly benefitting from the program they want to save and who are savvy enough to hold a news conference, get some fawning coverage from the socialist St. Louis daily, and collect 40,000 clicks on an Internet petition--which are not signatures, dear Post-Dispatch.

Too bad these people don't have the energy to pursue non-coercive charitable solutions to their problems, but that's much harder, since it requires constant effort, whereas getting a government program requires only an investment to get the program started and then to infrequently fight program cuts.

Although I have to say, it surprises me to see the Post-Dispatch coming down on the side of the upper middle class or lower upper class, but they're taking government handouts, so they're okay:
    Shah, the father of an autistic son, replied that the wealthy pay plenty of taxes and have just as much right to First Steps as they do to drive the state's public highways and attend public schools. "To suggest that the very wealthy should not receive these services is inconsistent with the Republican message," Shah said.
I'm not sure that's the Republican message.

Putting on a Brave Front

NBC puts on a brave face:
    The suicide of a boxer competing in the upcoming NBC reality series "The Contender" won't derail plans for the program, according to the network and its production partners.
Pardon my cynicism, but I imagine they're at least torn. Sad for the loss, but ecstatic about the publicity. At least, I hope they're torn.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Thanks for Checking In

Former TV critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Eric Mink says:
    Happy birthday, Kim Jong Il!
I think he goes on to say that Bush has failed on North Korea policy or something. I couldn't stomach much past his picture.

Those who cannot do television criticism, edit the Op-Eds. According to the Post-Dispatch, anyway.

Clarity in Statistical Reporting

A story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:
    David Laslo, director of Metropolitan Information and Data Analysis Services at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, presented his study at a meeting Thursday at UMSL.

    His research showed that St. Louis County's population loss spiked in 1998, but has been on a general upward swing since, although it dipped in 2002 and 2003.
    {Emphasis mine]
Graph that in your mind. And then send a copy to me care of this blog, would you? I get vertigo when I try to figure out what that professional journalist means.

Perhaps Hell Hath A Fury Like That

George Michael, bidding farewell:
    In the 100-minute film, he speaks frankly about losing a lover to AIDS and the death of his mother, of the infamous lewd act in a Beverly Hills toilet and the media fury over his anti-Iraq war stance. [Emphasis mine]
I must have slept through that media fury. Did it rattle your windows?

Today's Trivia

From an AP article entitled "WWF Warns on Man-Made Arctic Toxins" that apparently seeks to outlaw everything Gaia doesn't like:
    Only a tiny fraction of the estimated 30,000 to 70,000 chemicals made worldwide are banned, even though many more may be harmful, the report said.
In related trivia:
  • Of the hundreds of thousands of plants grown in American homes, only a tiny fraction is pot, but many more would stink up your house if you dried them and lit them on fire.

  • Of the millions of cars on American roads, only a tiny percentage will be in accidents, although any of them can be lethal if accelerated to their top speeds and run into unyielding objects.

  • Of the gazillions of gallons of water in the world, only a small amount causes death by inhalation, but all of it is potentially lethal unless you're Kevin Costner's character in Waterworld.

  • Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.
Subtitle this piece Subsets for Effect.

Book Report: L.A. Requiem by Robert Crais (1999)

It's a tough series. I liked the first books, but somewhere my enjoyment peaked, and I've enjoyed succeeding novels less. L.A. Requiem continues the trend. Not only does it have personal life melodrama for the detective, but it also features combinations of point-of-view and narrators that rather detract from the story. Elvis Cole tells the majority of the book in first person, but the book also cuts away to flashbacks in the third person starring Joe Pike and other third person views into what the perpetrator's doing. I understand Crais did this to add suspense, but I think we could have gotten along without it.

The book centers around the death of Joe Pike's former flame and involves a revenge murder framed on Pike. There's some element of foreshadowing in the book, not really helped by the narrative changes, and although the perpetrator was introduced early as a minor character, the climax rather blindsided me. Also, the denouement of the piece lasted several wordy pages and featured a couple of deus ex maquina things I could have lived without.

I only have two non-Elvis Cole books and two Elvis Cole novels (including one released yesterday) to read yet, and I have this sinking feeling that once I'm done, I'll be glad I'm done. And I probably won't read them again.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Red Herring

Does Michelle Malkin oppose competition? It's hard to discern her stance from the sentences in her post entitled The Impact of Immigration of Wages in Arkansas, wherein she frames a link to a Wall Street Journal article. Malkin comments:
    The news side of the Wall Street Journal has conceded that immigration depresses wages among blue-collar workers.
That's not a bug, that's a feature. Competition among workers drives manufacturing costs down and should inspire the best of those employees to aspire to something better--instead of annual or union-driven raises to do the same thing over and over. The competition keeps costs down and makes for cheaper manufactured goods and for easier expansion for business owners. Regardless of from whence the workers come.

I cannot espouse an argument against immigration based on its economic impact to lowering prices. Sorry.

Missing Hockey

I miss hockey, but that's because the AHL is on its all star break and the River Otters didn't play last night. NHL hockey? Yeah, those were on local television, so I don't get to watch games.

Still, I like this idea: NHL to Settle Salary Dispute with Lawyer Fistfight.

Taxing Behavior

States Mull Taxing Drivers By Mile:
    It's [a hybrid car] great for Just but bad for the roads he's driving on, because he also pays a lot less in gasoline taxes which fund highway projects and road repairs. As more and more hybrids hit the road, cash-strapped states are warning of rough roads ahead.

    Officials in car-clogged California are so worried they may be considering a replacement for the gas tax altogether, replacing it with something called "tax by the mile."

    Seeing tax dollars dwindling, neighboring Oregon has already started road testing the idea.
Keep that in mind whenever your government wants to tax a behavior, such as using gas, smoking, drinking, or using a telephone. When that behavior changes, the spending remains, so the government will have to finally demonstrate some creativity--not in cutting spending, but in taxing something else for money to waste.

Monday, February 14, 2005
Future Trivia Question Answer

Here's your future trivia question answer for the week. Remember it and you'll be the hero of your trivia night in five years:

Flash mob

When the Irony-Impaired Illiterates Attack!

A comment on my beautiful wife's blog:
    Dude i dont know who you are but to sit and make evry post about peta is probably the dumbest thing you could do ecpecially since you arnt posting about other animal rights groups like SHARK, ASPCA and so on. DO you not hav anything better to do than blog about something you clearly no nothing about? I am vegan and at the same time I respect peoples opinions they give me bc they are smart educated people and I always have time to listen to their opinions. I would never belive the things you post and write bc there is nothing you can back it up with. You just copy and paste things on your blog making it as though you know what your talking about. Grow up stop judging peoples lifestyles especially poeple you dont know. Dont judge a lifestyle you know nothing about either. You need to learn that everyone deserves respect for wanting to make a difference in the world and make some change. You blog is as pathetic as it gets...
The troll mandates for you.... The troll then says....
Dont judge a lifestyle you know nothing about either. You just copy and paste things on your blog making it as though you know what your talking about.
I respect peoples opinions they give me bc they are smart educated people and I always have time to listen to their opinions. Grow up stop judging peoples lifestyles especially poeple you dont know.
You need to learn that everyone deserves respect for wanting to make a difference in the world and make some change. You blog is as pathetic as it gets...

All this, and the troll was undereducated in the mysterious ways of English. Fortunately, gentle reader, I know you are smarter, better spoken, and have a better grasp of logic. Just in case, though, I do not have comments enabled to spare me my illusions.

Sunday, February 13, 2005
Book Report: Two Classical Comedies edited by Peter D. Arnott (1958)

I bought this book for a quarter at some long ago yard sale, so I beat the price of the Amazon resellers and I didn't have to pay for shipping. Neener neener neener.

The book includes two classical comedies: The Birds by Aristophanes and The Brothers Menaechmus by Plautus. The first playwright was Greek and the second Roman; the book was designed to give the layman, or perhaps the student, an introduction to the comedies of both civilizations.

The Birds, oddly enough, does not appear to have been the source material for Alfred Hitchcock's movie of the same title--or any other Alfred Hitchcock piece for that matter. Two Athenians lead the birds as they assert their authority over gods and men. They speak highly, in verse, and I don't appreciate much of the esoterica, even with footnotes. As the older play, oddly enough, it would work more as a modernist play; the characters wear masks, and the action is more absurd. If I didn't know an ancient Greek had written it, I would have guessed it was written by a French academic or someone who came through an English program today.

The Brothers Menaechmus deals with the mistaken identity that ensues when a long lost twin brother appears and inadvertently intercedes in a squabble between his brother, the brother's wife, the brother's mistress, and a parasite who lives off of the brother's largesse. The structure more clearly represents the Shakespearean and later comedies of relationships and errors, where the action is more realistic and less stylized. Ergo, I could relate to it much better and enjoyed it more. Also, it's not the source material for The Brothers Karamazov and it's 970+ pages shorter--and that comparison alone makes any book better.

Still, although I was educating myself in the classics but not in the classical languages, I read uncredited translations, so my experience is filtered through the translator's interpretation and vocabulary, but the 1958 copyright date might indicate that the translation preceded the abominable trend of using too much contemporary idiom, which might make a translated work more accessible to the decade's hepcats, but really makes the book useless as a long term backlister--or cheap pickup at a garage sale.

Answering the Rhetorical

Dear Rhetorical Question Answerer:
When did Motley Crue become classic rock?
                                    Bowling for Soup

Dear Bowling for Soup,
Motley Crue began its transition from vital music makers to the classic rock and oldies market when they released Decade of Decadence in 1991. Any time a musical group releases a greatest hits collection, it gambles. The very name greatest hits indicates that there will be no further hits as good, and a retrospective look at the band also makes the casual fan wonder if the band is done. Even if the album includes new material, its target audience is the cult fan who wants to own everything the band puts out and the people who, years later, decide they want to own a collection of the band's songs.

Looking over Motley Crue's discography, it proves true enough. Between Dr. Feelgood and the two releases in 1994, two complete high school classes matriculated without new Crue, and you could only hear them on album rock stations and other retrospective-looking outlets.

So to answer your question, BfS, the best date we can give is 1991.

To say Noggle, one first must be able to say the "Nah."