Presty the DJ for April 23

The number one British single today in 1964 was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, but not performed by the Beatles:

The number one British single today in 1969:

The number one single today in 1977:

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Happy (?) Tax Freedom Day

The annual reminder of how much in taxes we are paying, Tax Freedom Day, is today.

Nationally, it was yesterday, three days later than in 2013. In Wisconsin, it’s later than only 12 other states, and later than every other Midwest state except Illinois (April 28) and Minnesota (April 29). It’s two days later in Wisconsin than last year, but at least it’s 13th, not 11th, latest this year.

Take a look at the charts on this page to show where Wisconsin compares to other states. One damning statistic shows up in the second chart — every single year between 1981 and 2011, Wisconsin’s per capita personal income has been below the national average, and Wisconsin’s state and local taxes have been higher than the national average. The latter has been as high as number one in 1984 (guess which party controlled the Legislature and the governor’s mansion that year) and as low as seventh in 2006. Not surprisingly, higher-than-average taxes lead to lower-than-average income.

I know people who will say that our government services are superior to other states’ services. In some cases, they’re right. The present and previous school district we’ve lived in would be two of those examples, but those two school districts are, I believe, significantly better than other Wisconsin school districts. (Hint: College-town school districts are usually much better than their neighbors.) Other municipal services where we’ve lived are not better at all, and in one case it made us wonder whether government was there to serve us, or the other way around. Think of the worst teacher, the laziest or most incompetent government employee you can think of, or the politician you wouldn’t vote for if he or she were running against Joseph Stalin, and then remember: your taxes are paying his or her salary.

If you don’t like the service you get from a business you frequent, you can stop patronizing that business. If you don’t like the service you get from your municipality, or your county, or your school district … well, good luck with that. You’ve heard the phrase “taxation without representation”; well, at this tax bite, we’re getting overtaxation and underrepresentation.


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The opposite of laziness is … global warming?

Yes, I know, April Fool’s Day was three weeks ago. (I will comment upon Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brett Hulsey as soon as I determine that his candidacy is not in fact a tardy April Fool’s joke.) On the other hand, today is Earth Day, when Gaia is worshipped instead of the actual God.

This, which doesn’t mention Earth Day at all, comes from Mike Rowe:

Early this morning, one of San Francisco’s free newspapers found its way to the sidewalk in front of my apartment, proving yet again that you don‘t always get what you pay for. Because I abhor litter, I picked it up for deposit it in my mandatory recycling container. But not before glancing at the headline.

Apparently, this is their annual Green Issue, and their contention is pretty straightforward – work is killing the planet. Below the headline it gets better – “Climate Change Threats Revive the Long Forgotten Goal of Taking it Easier.”

Against my better judgment I took a peek inside, where a lengthy article spelled out a variety of examples about how the American work ethic is making the world hotter. Let me sum it for you. Hard work requires energy. Energy, as you surely know, is dirty, expensive, and bad. So, if we use less of it, we’ll not only save money, we’ll have more free time to follow our passion, and best of all, a more temperate planet for everyone. Ergo – work less and save the world!

We did two specials on Dirty Jobs called “Brown Before Green.” I don’t have anything new to add. However – if you run a foundation that’s based on the belief that “Work is Not the Enemy,” you can’t ignore a headline like this one.

I launched mikeroweWORKS on Labor Day of 2008. I did it because hard work and skilled labor need a PR Campaign. Too many Americans have become disconnected from the people who make our society function, and I believe that “disconnect” has informed a great many challenges we currently face as a country – including a widening skills gap, a crumbling infrastructure, and decades of offshoring. In short, I think we have a rotten relationship with work, and I suspect a lot of our current problems are a symptom of that relationship.

Occasionally, people say “Mike, what makes you believe such a thing? What makes you think that society is waging a war against hard work?” I have a book full of examples. And if I had seen this headline before I wrote it, I would have included one more…

Several of Rowe’s commenters pointed out the irony, in the words of one of them, of “printing a million newspapers and giving them away” for a Green Issue. Agreed another commenter, “like flying to a worldwide convention on energy conservation, pollution, or global warming in your Gulfstream G550.”

The free rag in question is the Bay Guardian, the cover story of which asserts:

Save the world, work less. That dual proposition should have universal appeal in any sane society. And those two ideas are inextricably linked by the realities of global climate change because there is a direct connection between economic activity and greenhouse gas emissions.

Simply put, every hour of work we do cooks the planet and its sensitive ecosystems a little bit more, and going home to relax and enjoy some leisure time is like taking this boiling pot of water off the burner.

Most of us burn energy getting to and from work, stocking and powering our offices, and performing the myriad tasks that translate into digits on our paychecks. The challenge of working less is a societal one, not an individual mandate: How can we allow people to work less and still meet their basic needs?

This goal of slowing down and spending less time at work — as radical as it may sound — was at the center of mainstream American political discourse for much of our history, considered by thinkers of all ideological stripes to be the natural endpoint of technological development. It was mostly forgotten here in the 1940s, strangely so, even as worker productivity increased dramatically.

But it’s worth remembering now that we understand the environmental consequences of our growth-based economic system. Our current approach isn’t good for the health of the planet and its creatures, and it’s not good for the happiness and productivity of overworked Americans, so perhaps it’s time to revisit this once-popular idea.

Or not. One gains money by work. Money isn’t everything, but money helps a lot. Money helps, for instance, things like cleaning up environmental problems. P.J. O’Rourke pointed out decades ago that environmental protection is a luxury good, something you get by having goods to begin with. Healthy, growing economies can pay for environmental care; non-growing economies — notably the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact before their collapse — can’t and don’t.

Regular readers can guess how I feel about this even before reading this blog. The theory here also may seem familiar to you. In contrast, the correct view is: Man is meant to work. Our problems today stem from people not working enough, or hard enough, or productively enough, not from working too much.


Categories: US politics, Work | Leave a comment

Presty the DJ for April 22

Today in 1964, the president of Britain’s National Federation of Hairdressers offered free haircuts to members of the next number one act in the British charts, adding, “The Rolling Stones are the worst; one of them looks as if he’s got a feather duster on his head.”

One assumes he was referring to Keith Richards, who is still working (and, to some surprise, still alive) 50 years later.

The number one British single today in 1965:

The number one British album today in 1972 was Deep Purple’s “Machine Head”:

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Welcome to my world

Since my career, such as it is, has included occasional visits to Bizarro World (a story about bear cubs interrupted when the cubs started chewing on the reporter, for instance), and odd complaints (my supposed religious bias because I once mentioned a cemetery on St. Charles Road), I appreciate Poynter‘s passing on some of the more odd comments about newspapers from their readers, or in some cases former readers:

The Wall Street Journal:

Today’s front page story about NSA privacy invasions should have been released in 2006. It is 7 years late. …

Many years ago, I was sitting at my desk reading the WSJ over lunch. A pipefitter at the large Houston Ship Channel chemical plant that we were both working, happened by. He took one look and hollered in his best Texas accent: “The Wall Street Journal! What are you, some sort of a G-d Damn tycoon? …

The New York Times:

My NY Times usually arrives at 4 AM and all wrapped up in blue. My cat Socks and I are usually there waiting when it lands on my step. And as a Center-Left Democrat, this part of the “Mainstream Media” suits my political inclinations the best. …

New York Post:

Serious. I use to live in NY, ride the subways, ride the Staten Island Ferry, really get about and the only paper I saw NY’s buying and reading was the NY Post. No shame admitting they enjoy a good story and headline like anyone else. At least you know what you are getting with this paper unlike the agenda from say the NY Times.

Washington Post:

News source bias debate aside, I was generally happy with my Washington Post Sunday subscription. With print publication suffering as a slowly dying breed in the face of “oh-noes-the-internetz,” after the first year they were willing to throw free weekday deliveries at me until my old apartment looked like a candidate for Hoarders. …

Orange County (Calif.) Register:

I am giving them a 5 star rating along with one big complaint! The complaint is that the newspaper is too large, and filled with so many interesting articles, that I can rarely get through it during my breakfast. I find that I am taking unread sections with me during my daily appointments in case I find myself waiting in waiting rooms for an appointment. …

San Francisco Chronicle:

I don’t read any paper, but I subscribed to help a boy that was selling subscriptions. So I received the paper every Sunday and I just recycled it without even open it every time. Then I discover that they continued sending me the paper after the subscription was supposedly over, so I asked and they told me that I have a debt for $15 because they auto-renew subscriptions. WTF? I never signed for auto-renewal, that is a dirty trick to try to keep money flowing in despite their pathetic content. I’m assuming that judging by their web site, because I don’t even know how the printed version looks like. …

Los Angeles Times:

For the past several months, when I open the Times in the morning, Fleas (or some kind of tiny bugs) fly out of there newspaper.Very disconcerting. … The last time I phoned, the representative offered to have my paper enclosed in plastic. That is being done now for a few weeks but it did not solve the problem. … MY L A TIMES STILL HAS FLEAS …

The Oregonian:

My experience with the delivery of the newspaper to my house could provide ideas for a PORTLANDIA episode. Again this morning my newspaper is soaking wet. Yes it was wrapped in plastic but only sealed on one end. They must train their carriers to keep one end open. This causes rain runoff to collect in the bag. Is this to help keep it from going into rivers to protect the Salmon? This must be such a common problem that there is now an OPTION on the automated phone reporting system to report A WET NEWSPAPER. It’s not like its a suprise that it rains here.

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The Wall Street Journal’s L. Gordon Crovitz:

Less than a month after announcing its plan to abandon U.S. protection of the open Internet in 2015, the White House has stepped back from the abyss. Following objections by Bill Clinton, a warning letter from 35 Republican senators, and critical congressional hearings, the administration now says the change won’t happen for years, if ever.

“We can extend the contract for up to four years,” Assistant Commerce Secretary Lawrence Strickling told Congress last week, referring to the agreement under which the U.S. retains ultimate control over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as Icann. If the administration makes good on that reassurance, it would punt the decision to 2019 and the next president.

Mr. Strickling originally linked the end of U.S. control to the September 2015 expiration date of the current Icann agreement. He backtracked at a Hudson Institute conference last week: “We did not intend that to be a deadline after which ‘bad things’ would happen. There has been some misapprehension that we were trying to impose a deadline on this process. We weren’t.” Fadi Chehade, Icann’s CEO, agreed. “There is no deadline,” he said. “The U.S. has many years on the contract.”

In an interview, Mr. Chehade assured me that he understands why supporters of the open Internet want the U.S. to retain its oversight role, which keeps countries like Russia and China from meddling. “I’m worried, too,” he said. “There’s no question that governments like power and certain governments will always try to take control of the Internet, so we will have to be careful.”

The Commerce Department tasked Icann to come up with a plan to invite authoritarian governments to participate while still keeping the Internet open. This is likely impossible—and wholly unnecessary. Nongovernmental “multi-stakeholders,” such as engineers, networking companies and technology associations, now run the Internet smoothly. They are free to do so because the U.S. retains ultimate control over Internet domains, blocking authoritarian regimes from censoring or otherwise limiting the Internet outside their own countries.

The Obama administration proposal would have treated other governments as equal stakeholders, turning the concept of private-sector self-governance on its head. Robert McDowell, a former commissioner at the Federal Communication Commission, pointed out at the Hudson Institute event that “‘multi-stakeholder’ historically has meant no government,” not many governments.

Mr. Strickling tried to deflect criticism in his testimony: “No one has yet to explain to me the mechanism by which any of these individual governments could somehow seize control of the Internet as a whole.” The senior State Department official involved in Internet governance, Daniel Sepulveda, similarly claimed at the Hudson Institute: “Governments can no more take over Icann than Google can take over Icann.”

These are false assurances. Steve DelBianco of the NetChoice trade association gave this example in congressional testimony: Under Icann rules, a majority of governments can simply vote to end the current consensus approach and switch to majority voting. China and Iran are already lobbying for this change. Russia, China and other governments switched to majority voting to outfox the U.S. at a conference of the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency, in 2012. Mr. Sepulveda called that an “anomaly,” but the result was an 89-55 vote for a treaty giving U.N. legitimacy to governments cutting off the open Internet in their countries. This division of the Internet into open and closed networks goes into effect next year.

The Obama administration somehow thinks sacrificing U.S. control of Icann will satisfy regimes eager further to undermine the open Internet. Mr. Strickling argues: “Taking this action is the best measure to prevent authoritarian regimes from expanding their restrictive policies beyond their borders.” The opposite is true. Granting these countries access to Icann and the root zone filenames and addresses on the Internet would give them the potential to close off the global Internet, including for Americans, by deciding rules for how all websites anywhere must operate. …

If Mr. Obama still thinks giving up U.S. protection of the open Internet and its multi-stakeholder community is such a great idea, he should ask Congress to vote on it. He won’t, because there is zero chance that an Abandon the Internet Act would ever pass.

Categories: US business, US politics | Leave a comment

Presty the DJ for April 21

The number one British single today in 1958:

The number one single today in 1962:

The number one album today in 1973 was Alice Cooper’s “Billion Dollar Babies”:

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27 years, one day and 168,194 hamburgers ago

On Easter Sunday, April 19, 1987, fans of the Texas Rangers got to watch to see if their team could give the Milwaukee Brewers their first loss of the year.

Fans of the Brewers had to listen on the radio, since in those days the Brewers never put home games on TV.

After the Brewers followed Easter ham dinners by winning their 12th consecutive game, George Webb restaurants followed three days later by giving away 168,194 hamburgers, keeping a 40-year-old promise of free hamburgers for a 12-game winning streak by the (American Association) Brewers, (National League) Braves or (American, then National League) Brewers.

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Presty the DJ for April 20

The number one single today in 1957:

Today in 1959, Goldband Records released a single that had been recorded two years earlier by an 11-year-old girl named Dolly Parton.

“Puppy Love” didn’t chart for Parton, but it did for other acts, including Paul Anka and Donny Osmond. And Parton had a pretty good career anyway.

The number one single today in 1974:

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Presty the DJ for April 19

Today in 1967, the four Beatles signed a contract to stay together as a group for a decade.

The group broke up three years later.

The number one British single today in 1970 came from that year’s Eurovision winner, a one-hit wonder:

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