Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Flint needs privatization.

Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of the Sunday 1/31/16 Detroit Free Press writes about "Flint's long misery, at the hands of urban policy." Now the concept 'policy' usually refers to a set of rules or guidelines that a government or corporation uses to guide behavior towards achieving general or even specific goals. But the policy Mr Henderson refers to is not really a formal policy but rather the simple freedom that people have in order to live and work where they want to and the various forms of municipal government people select to live by. This last seems to be Mr Henderson's biggest problem - city governance.

But before he identifies the nature of this problem he cites Flint's sad history.

    "Just since 2000, the city has been on a painful, arduous slide--losing 25% of  its revenue from income and property taxes, 32% of the revenue sharing it gets from the state, 21% of its population and a staggering number of businesses and economic activity."

He points out more economic woes and admits that these

     "...followed the brutal years Flint spent watching General Motors pack its bags and walk away, leaving a jobless, isolated population to survive in a landscape bereft of economic stability or opportunity."

True enough and a common problem for many smaller cities and even bigger ones like Detroit. But notice how these problems are treated as the given, as if they had no causes. No mention of why GM left the city.
And now he gives us his view of the problems.

     "This is about cities themselves, and how Michigan's system of governing permits and even incentivizes the creation of poor, isolated urban centers that don't have enough population or resources to deliver services.
          This is about race and class, and the historic emphasis of suburban development on moving away from black and poor communities, stripping them of the tax base and other resources they need to survive."

Observe how this whole thing is framed as if it were a government designed , top down policy of governance. What else is the meaning of the phrase 'governing permits even incentivizes" citizens to move from the city to the suburbs? Evidently he would be in favor of restricting such freedom in some way. People generally move to the burbs to have a house with a yard, or to get away from the din of the city. Doesn't matter the reason. A just society guarantees such freedom.

So how does the government incentivize such suburban movement? By permitting the suburbs to have single family homes on a small lot and a picket fence? How would the policy makers de-incentivize that? The last sentence is revealing, "stripping them of the tax base and other resources they need to survive." People don't need tax bases to survive. Governments do. People need freedom. This is not about the survival of the citizens of Flint, but rather survival of its and the states' survival i.e. government control. Mr Henderson continues:

     "This is about broad policy questions we seem unable to even ask in earnest in the conversation about tax structure and cities.
     And it's about the frustrating ineffectiveness on both sides of the aisle, in leading any kind of re-think on urban policy."

'[T]he frustrating ineffectiveness on both sides of the aisle' is for sure. Neither political party wants to think outside the box of government providing everyone with their daily bread and water. (And when you leave that up to government, Flint is what you get.) One broad policy question the government and our intellectual pundits like Mr Henderson seem 'unable to even ask' is if you cannot afford to offer services then why keep trying to offer them?

When a family encounters hard economic times they cut back on the spending they normally do. Governments are not like that. They'll cut back on police and courts. They shouldn't. The provision of these is required by the Constitution. Politicians are loathe to cut back on economic services which are not required by the Constitution but which they use to get reelected (look what I did for you!). Again, survival of government control is the goal.

Mr Henderson goes on to talk about the richer suburbs surrounding Flint:

     "These communities have gotten stronger as Flint has gotten smaller and weaker--and because Michigan permits hyper-local governance, the separation among these communities, just miles apart, helps cement the poverty and isolation that have taken hold in Flint. Grand Blanc and Flushing, and the many other communities surrounding Flint, don't share tax bases, school districts, park systems or even water systems with the city."

Notice the new villain in town--hyper-local governance. This is of course referring to separate suburbs having their own governments, tax bases, school districts who are unwilling to share their money with the city.
He continues:

     "In other states Flushing and Grand Blanc might be mere neighborhoods under a government that oversaw the region; the relative wealth that keeps those communities stable would not be walled off from Flint."

Please understand the full meaning of this notion. Your right to move to a suburb with its own tax base and school districts and spend your money there is a form of injustice resulting in your money being  "walled off" from the urban city. It means that suburban governments must sacrifice some of their "relative wealth,"  because they have it. It must be given to Flint because they don't have it. This is an inverted political and moral principle. Creating and keeping wealth is to be punished. Destroying it, as has been done for decades in Flint, is to be rewarded.

What Flint, and all other cities, need is a massive dose of political and economic freedom. If a Flint citizen has a skill or talent that he could market, he should be free to hangout a shingle and go into business for himself and live or die by how well he makes his customers happy. But he can't today because he has to get numerous permissions from numerous government permission granters. This is contrary to America's founding principle that people are to be free by right and not by permission.

Mr Henderson concludes:

     "Most of all, it (inequalities between city and suburbs) would require us all to acknowledge the role of our beloved (!!) state, in our names, has played in creating the extreme inequalities that play out every day in cities like Flint.
     "If the tragedy in Flint isn't enough to spark reconsideration, on a large scale, I'm not sure what will be."

Unfortunately, it is not likely Mr Henderson or anyone on the Free Press editorial staff, will 'reconsider' the propriety of government controlling its citizens through regulations--instead of rights protecting laws. But it is critical that Flint residents learn from this. The things to be learned are:

1. Government can only be 'beloved' when it is strictly confined to protecting individual rights.

2. The proper function of government is "to protect these rights" to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not providing schools, health care, roads, bridges, golf courses or anything else.

3. Government has no skin in the game when regulating economic services like providing water, roads, schools, etc. Private corporations can be sued if they harm you. So can the government. But a private company will lose customers-and investors-meaning lots of money. The government will pay you not with their money but with you neighbors' money, and some of your own. Nobody in government will lose a fortune. Any bureaucratic wrong doing can be absolved with the magic words 'I care.'

4. Flint residents should put all such critical services on a free, unregulated market. Look at ipads, ipods, smart phones, tablets and such. Quality keeps going up and prices keep going down because the industry is less regulated than any other. Wouldn't you like to see that happen with water and other important services like schools, roads and so on?

It is now up to Flint citizens to reconsider its relationship to government.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Discrimination, an attack on judgement.

 I'm re-posting this from Sept. 2015. I meant to post it then but just discovered that I did not. Don't know how that happened. Anyway, it's about Dr Ben Carson being attacked in the press for discriminating against Muslims.



The Friday 9/25/15 print edition if the Detroit News carries an oped by Chicago Tribune writer Clarence Page titled "Muslim? What's so wrong with that?" About Ben Carson Mr Page says: "He has boldly called for religious discrimination against any Muslims who run for president." Page cites Carson's statement that "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that." Page goes on to point out that our Constitution requires that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office of public trust under the United States." True enough.

But Mr Carson is not guilty of religious discrimination. In fact he is properly discriminating against an ideology that is anti-American; Islam. There is of course nothing wrong with discriminating against or even for an ideology. I discriminate heavily for individualism, capitalism etc. We fought World War Two against two ideologies: Naziism in Germany and Shintoism in Japan. In fact, there is nothing wrong with discrimination as such. To discriminate means to discern differences and similarities. Nothing more. The only kind of discrimination that should be illegal is government discrimination for or against people all of whom are supposed to be equal before the law.

Mr Page however, treats Islam as if it were nothing more that another friendly, neighborhood religion. It is not. It is a complete philosophy and political system which is diametrically opposite that of the United States. Let's look at the differences in the five branches of philosophy as I see them.

1. Metaphysics, in Islam, the malevolent universe premise where misery and suffering are the norm and happiness the exception and can only be achieved in the next world with Allah. In America, the achievement of values and happiness are the norm while failures and suffering are the exception.

2. Epistemology, in Islam, faith is the main if not only form of knowledge. In America reason is the main and (and should be) the only means to knowledge.

3. Ethics, in Islam, the morality of sacrifice of all earthly pleasures to Allah. In America, the morality of rational self interest and respect of the life of others.

4. Politics, in Islam, a theocratic dictatorship which forces sacrifices on those unwilling to volunteer them. In America, Capitalism, a system of individual rights including property rights in which free trade is the main political virtue.

5. Aesthetics/art, in Islam, none. Since art is a concrete manifestation of human values, and since Islam is against human values, there is no art in Islam. In America, art is plentiful because Americans tend to celebrate the good that is in man's nature. Hero worship is big in America.

Islam has nothing in common with America. Mr. Page points to two Muslims in congress and how they are not bringing Sharia into America. So what? The president has a lot more power than congressmen and judging by how president Obama has been getting away with ignoring Congress and the Constitution, a bonafide Muslim would be worse than what we have now.

I suspect Mr Page being widely considered left leaning, doesn't want to miss a chance to  bash a popular Republican.

No, Dr Ben Carson is not a bigot but rather a loyal American who loves life. He wouldn't be a doctor if he didn't.


Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Cost vs Value: Freedom vs Control

The Sunday 11/15 editorial page has an editorial by Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor, titled "The price we all pay: who gets hurt when lawmakers put cost before value." So this is an attack on lawmakers who refuse to govern the way Mr. Henderson thinks they should.
 "In a conversation with Michigan House Speaker Kevin Cotter a few weeks ago, I challenged him to defend the fact that the state's Department of Health and Human Services is so under-funded that it employs just 67 inspectors to oversee compliance in 10,000 child care centers."
 First, the concept of cost is a normative concept. It refers to a quantitative relationship regarding something being measured. In this case, cost measures how much dollar value we place on something. What's being ignored here is an answer to the question, of value to whom and for what purpose? Mr Henderson is saying that it's wrong for lawmakers to place a higher value on dollar cost. To him the higher value is the product the cost could buy (more government inspectors).

Since most parents pay their own money to send their kids to care centers, the 'cost' Mr Henderson refers to is the cost the citizens would, and according to him should, be forced by lawmakers to pay for more (government) inspectors. It is also a declaration that since he values more government inspectors, lawmakers should too.

  Mr. Henderson is decrying the fact that most citizen's congressmen, are hesitant to force more money out of the taxpayer's wallets. To him, politicians just can't see the greater value in the things more taxpayer money could provide if only congress was willing to take, and citizens willing to give up, that money.

Second, I would say that 67 (government) inspectors is definitely not a good number, it should be zero. What about the thousands of parents and other family members who have children in those care centers? They can see first hand what kind of care their children are getting. In reality, they are and should be the best qualified inspectors. Government inspectors are just not needed. Government should only step in when there is evidence of rights violations. Government inspections are based on the principle that care centers are to be presumed guilty or possibly guilty and must prove their innocence by submitting to inspections, an un-American idea. In a free market, insurance companies would do this voluntarily. No need for government to usurp this activity.

He goes on to claim that citizen's desire to hang on to their money, and politicians who want the citizen's votes to get reelected, is a "deification of cost over any other measure." These 'other measures' of course are the values he wants government to control. But the fact is that it is Mr Henderson who wants to deify government control over society as the cure for all problems even though the problems he cites are poor results of government run programs. In his mind this deification has led to a certain wrong headed attitude in the minds of citizens' and their representatives.
 "So whether government works or not has become secondary, if not further down the ladder. And whether our fellow citizens can count on services government is suppose to provide--well, in too many instances, that's just not much of a concern at all."
Here he is accusing citizens and lawmakers of a nonchalant, I don't care attitude about government performance. I for one don't blame citizens for such an attitude. Government has earned it.

Notice here too that government is 'suppose to provide" services. These are of course mostly economic services like health care, roads, schools, etc. which are lumped together with legitimate i.e. political functions of government like police and courts. Nowhere in the oped does he question the propriety of government providing economic services like health care and schools and so on. But it does need to be questioned.

There is no reason a free (unregulated) market can't provide these services more efficiently and at lower costs than government. But the idea of a free people deciding for themselves what is in their interest is anathema to today's progressive intellectuals. They see government as a provider of what they call core services. But history shows that when governments usurp some market services as 'core' it's only a matter of time before it extends that control over all or most of them.

But there is more to this story. The editorial gives the impression of presenting a simple, practical argument for government control. But looks can be deceiving. It's important for readers and especially Republicans to understand that progressives almost always try to take the moral high ground. They often use adjectives like caring and concern and regard for when pushing their arguments and use the opposites like uncaring or cruel or cold hearted when describing opposing views.
Mr Henderson's version:
"But what he (Cotter) didn't mention at all, and maybe wasn't even thinking about, was value--a concept that asks us to look beyond the bills and change to other virtues, like return on investment or, more important, fulfillment of constitutional, statutory or moral obligation."
'Bills and change' are not very specific. I take it to mean dollar bills and coinage. So lawmakers are to look beyond (ignore) such things as costs to taxpayers and focus on 'constitutional and statutory and moral obligations.' Well, if our State Constitution and other laws require government to own or regulate (dictate) child care centers, schools, roads, etc. instead of the people involved then I say repeal those laws constitutional and otherwise.

But what about the moral obligation? The only moral obligation government has is "to secure these rights" and nothing more. By claiming that lawmakers have a moral obligation to regulate and run certain economic activities is to declare that if lawmakers don't compel taxpayers to pony up the money then both are being immoral. This is of course insane. How to finance child care and other services is a practical matter of economics. Not a moral one as long as no one's rights are being violated.

If Republicans weren't so brain dead they would respond to this claim to morality by pointing out that there is nothing moral about usurping the responsibilities of citizens to monitor their own activities, about how such usurpation leads to an irresponsible citizenry and an irresponsible government. Irresponsible government because it has no skin in the game, cannot lose any money by inferior inspections whereas care centers do when inspected by paying customers.

Since all the economic activities government controls and regulates; roads, schools, health care and so on are in sad shape, a genuine moral concern for them should behoove lawmakers to remove them from the auspices of government completely, especially child care inspectors. And it would move media pundits to advocate for same.

There are lots of pundits out there who firmly believe that caring for others is the ultimate moral virtue and that caring for oneself is immoral or at best amoral. Believing in this they will be compelled to view citizens taking care of themselves as selfish at best and representing an inadequately moral society. They will imagine that a government that cares for others is a moral government and yearn for a society comprised of a benevolent dictatorship, something as one sage put it 'never was and never will be."

And such a loving, caring government cannot be because it is contrary to human nature. Study the history of governments and you will see that every government's main concern will be its own welfare, its own survival and growth. All in the name of caring for you. And in the name of a moral concern for you it will demand more of the fruits of your labor (your cash), more obedience (they will call it compliance to regulations) and of course your vote.

The theme of Mr Henderson's editorial is that the value of government control is a morally superior value than the physical cost to taxpayers. Or to put it another way, when it comes to your welfare, government knows best.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Climate Change Self Defense

 We have been told for decades now that climate change will bring catastrophe to the planet unless we change our evil ways. Our evil ways of course consist of us Americans providing ourselves with a comfortable living thanks to an abundance of cheap, affordable energy through the use of fossil fuels.

Now it is not my intention to refute the idea of Catastrophic Anthropogenic (man made) Climate Change (CACC). For that I refer the reader to web sites like "Watts Up With That" and "C02 Science" and "Climate Audit" or "SEPP" and "Climate Depot" just to name a few. There the reader will discover the evidence against CACC is overwhelming.

My purpose is to alert the reader to the techniques used by some intellectuals who are pushing an idea, like climate change, to promote an agenda, like more government control over citizens.


 The Detroit Free Press print edition of Sunday Nov 1st carried an oped by staff writer Nancy Kaffer titled "Who will lead on climate change?" A subtitle reads "The issue is likely to be divisive in the 2016 election campaigns."

Although these headlines may not belong to Ms Kaffer, editors usually like to write them, they are interesting in their premises. The first headline is premised on the notion that climate change needs a leader and now that that fact is established the only question remaining open for discussion is who should it be. Naturally I disagree. Climate is always changing and people always adapt to it by preferring warmer climes to colder ones. Even if man's contribution to atmospheric CO2 doubles from three hundredths of one percent to six hundredths and you find it to be intolerable, all you'd have to do is move say 100 miles or so north and you should be just ducky, no need to give up air conditioning, your SUV or anything else.

The second headline declares the issue 'to be divisive' to the election campaigns of 2016. Let's look a little closer at 'divisive.' The headline writer could have used the word 'controversial' or 'contentious' or some other. But 'divisive' carries with it a negative connotation, the separation of a whole, disunity or disorder which is designed to evoke an emotion in the reader as something undesirable. And that is the goal, to get the reader to associate the negative feeling with views opposing climate change. The hope is that the negative feeling will translate into an action favorable to the writer e.g. support.

Today's professional intellectuals often use 'divisive' to besmirch any and all opposing views on just about everything. So when you see or hear that word 'divisive' applied to a proposition you can be sure the writer is trying to nudge you into a certain frame of mind. It is an argument from intimidation. 'Don't be divisive and disagree with me'.

Now let's look at the oped's text.

     "Nearly everyone gets it about climate change.
      A majority of Americans, according to Gallup, the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community, and even most Republicans say it's a cause for concern, even if they disagree about the causes. That should make it a wedge issue in the 2016 presidential campaign."

Consensus is a concept that refers to opinions. Not facts. If you have a large number of  facts, you have verification. A large number of opinions (consensus) is just that, a bunch of opinions. Also, overwhelming  majorities have believed in many things that turned out to be false: like the Earth being the center of the universe, or man will never fly and so on.  Facts however are not determined by head count, popular vote or consensus. She is using the argument from popularity which says in essence, 'all these people believe it to be true so you should too.'

The phrase "wedge issue" is the concept 'divisive' renamed.

Ms Kaffer adds the Department of Defense to her consensus and its claim that climate change is
""an urgent and growing threat to our national security," that will aggravate poverty, social tensions, ineffectual leadership, weak political institutions and threaten stability around the globe."
 Wow! What a hodgepodge of calamities we are to fear! Might as well throw in more potholes and toothaches. And that dear readers is the aim of the entire oped. To get readers to fear hordes of demons and cry for safety. An excerpt from my post "Bad Climate Advice for Republicans":

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." H. L. Mencken 
When I was growing up it was acid rain that was going to destroy the planet unless we humans changed our evil ways. Then it was global cooling that would end all life on earth unless we seriously changed our evil ways this time. (The planet did cool by 2 tenths of a degree celsius from 1940 to 1975 and this 2 tenths of a degree was said to portend of "The coming ice age" as Time Magazine declared). 
About the same time another demon was announced: the Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich. He announced in his book by the same name that millions of us were going to die of starvation in the 1970s because the planet simply could not sustain such a large population. His solution was for us to give up our industrial and technical civilizations and return to a more primitive lifestyle i.e. change our evil ways. 
That was followed by global warming which will destroy the world by creating a blanket of carbon dioxide (CO2) which will heat up the earth so much it will destroy all life unless we stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere i.e. change our evil ways."
Global warming has since been repackaged as climate change. The oped continues:
 "The report was the latest in a series of increasingly serious alarms about the impacts of climate change--not in some nebulous, hypothetical future, but in the very real present."
What this is saying is never mind the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's repeated reference to catastrophic consequences arriving around 2100, they're arriving now. This means the climate change mongers are getting desperate. The demon is on our doorstep they say. We must give up our rights, freedoms and of course our cash, now! These demons will then go away, supposedly.

But acid rain did not destroy the Earth. Neither did global cooling, nor the population explosion nor global warming. Neither will climate change. People are beginning to suspect that climate change just isn't the dire threat its made out to be. Since there has been no global warming for over 18 years despite us humans still pouring CO2 into the atmosphere at about 40 billion tons per year, the powers that be now feel the need to dress up this demon in the most scary and frightful garb as per all the calamities listed above as well as these:

"Add to that what's happening in Syria, California, Antarctica, the Arctic, Alaska, the US Gulf Coast and East Coast, at countless spots around the globe where our rapidly changing climate is having devastating effects on the way people live, and it's impossible to deny that climate change is happening, that mankind has at least contributed to its effects, and that building on the regulatory actions already in place to mitigate its potential to significantly damage our country and our world should be a governmental imperative."

It should be clear that this paragraph is talking about weather. Droughts, floods, storms and other phenomena have always happened and will continue in the future because they operate in cycles. It misrepresents weather as climate. But I want the reader to see that this oped uses a favorite technique of those with a government agenda, overload citizens with mountains of danger, so many evils to fear that the ordinary citizen is overwhelmed and gives up.

Ms. Kaffer goes on to cite some Republican presidential candidates who criticize the climate change mantra although she doesn't use that descriptive term. After naming names of the GOP candidates who diverge she writes:
"Compare the candidates to the American public at large, or even to members of their own party, and it's clear that they're out of step"
 Again, out of step means don't agree with the consensus. How about the Democrats?
"It's universally accepted among Democratic candidates--former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Vermont Sen.Bernie Sanders--that climate change is happening, that mankind has contributed to it, that it's a national security crises and that the next president must combat it."

That the Democratic Party is all in on climate change is for sure; that climate change is happening is a sure thing too. Call any university physicist and he will tell you that there is no such thing as stasis in nature, stasis being a set of conditions that don't change. Climate therefore is always changing as it must. But the notion that mankind is a meaningful cause and that governments are even capable of combating it is very much a fantastic stretch of the imagination.

The oped then goes on to mention that India and China have joined the consensus.
"The president claimed a significant victory early in his first term when he brought China and India to consensus, and last year in agreeing with China to limit emissions in each nation, something that sets the stage not just for the Paris conference, but is something the National Resource Defense Council's David Goldston says is crucial to getting Americans to act."
Ok, why is it crucial that China's and India's opinions are needed to motivate Americans to action? Again this is another example of argumentum populorum or the argument from popularity applied to nations; in other words, 'these nations have joined the popular opinion so America should too'. No we shouldn't. At least not on that basis. The oped continues:
""It's hugely important both substantively and politically," he said. "Substantively, because if we're going to make progress as a planet on this, China and India have to play also. And the converse is true--the U.S. has to play. Opponents of action always try to cite what they claim is inaction elsewhere as an excuse.""
The key phrase here is 'as a planet.' I say that because the chief adviser, Maurice Newman, to Australia's PM, recently declared:
"“This is not about facts or logic. It’s about a new world order under the control of the UN."
'New World order' and 'as a planet' is an equivalency. So we see then that Australia is one nation that has not joined the consensus. Russia happens to be another. From the website of The Daily Caller:
 "Russian President Vladimir Putin believes global warming is a “fraud” — a plot to keep Russia from using its vast oil and natural gas reserves."
Did the author mention either of these two nations and their contrary consensus? Nope but she does offer a hopeful light at the end of the climate change tunnel:
"But never before in earth's history has a species had the intelligence and wherewithal to fully understand what's happening during a dramatic climate change and to endeavor to intervene not only on its own behalf, but for all living organisms on the planet."
 Wow! Have you ever looked at Washington DC or your own state capital and observed the intelligence and wherewithal to fully understand much of anything?
Our government can't manage the above much of anything--the Post Office and Amtrack have been losing money forever, Social Security and Medicare are heading for an unavoidable bankruptcy, Obamacare is collapsing, public education is a disaster, so are the roads, the dollar is becoming worth less daily--and yet it want's you to think it has the intelligence and wherewithal on how to control the Earth's climate and get it right!!!

When I was a little boy I wanted to be a policeman or the Lone Ranger to nab bad guys and Captain Marvel to save the world. There is nothing wrong of course with hero worship and the desire to save the world. But it is not the nature of governments to do it. Government is brute, physical force. It is not a creative force but a destructive one. Its only function is to protect our individual rights. We all need to defend ourselves from its natural desire to force its version of the good upon us under the guise of caring for us.

In closing then lets revisit our tools of climate self defense.
1. Remember the concept 'consensus.' It refers to opinions not facts
2. Watch for the word 'divisive' being used to nudge you into a certain frame of mind. It is an example of the argument from intimidation.
3. Be wary of huge numbers of dangers threatening you. More intimidation by fear mongering.
4. Watch out for the argument from popularity, just because lots of people believe something does not make it true.
5. Related to the argument from popularity above is the argument from authority. It says these people (like the IPCC, or NRDC) have credentials therefore we should believe them. Credentials mean their owners should be listened to. Not believed on faith.
6. Actively look for contrary evidence.
.

There are lots of other tools of deception regarding junk science out there. I hope these few will help you defend your clarity of thinking.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Public Education in Michigan

The Friday 10/30 edition of the Detroit News carried an oped on Michigan's school system titled "Assessing Michigan's talent future" by Doug Rothwell CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan. Mr Rothwell correctly cites parts of the problem:
"From 2005 to 2015, Michigan's fourth grade reading performance dropped from 30th to 41th (sic) nationally. Fourth grade math performance dropped from 32nd to 42nd. Only 20 percent of our high school students are considered career-and college-ready."
Unfortunately he does not say 'here is why.' Instead he cites action taken by the Michigan government:
      "The good news is that Michigan is taking important steps to set a new course. The governor and Legislature have increased investment in and access to early childhood education programs.
"But perhaps the most important change came in 2010, when Michigan adopted new, more rigorous standards for what Michigan students should learn in each grade level."
 Presumably it is not enough investment--taxpayer dollars--in early childhood programs and the lack of rigorous standards that are a part of the cause.

I want to say here that standards don't teach. They measure. Curriculum teaches. The purpose of standards is to measure how much the student learns and understands. To suppose that student's failure to learn is caused by improper measurement is nonsense.

This whole focus on standards is a smokescreen to divert attention away from a failed philosophy of pedagogy. Common Core, a logical consequence of Progressive Education, is the latest manifestation of an irrational pedagogy going all the way back to John Dewey the father of Prog Ed. What is wrong with Dewey's philosophy of education is a post for another time. Let me say only that Dewey did not like the idea of teaching students to think in terms of principles. Back to the oped:

It doesn't seem to occur to Mr Rothwell that Michigan's government has been running public schools for a long time--and I disagree with his suggested failure timeline of ten years, it's longer--and that such gross incompetence at educating our kids as we both agree has happened, should give pause to anyone who thinks it's a good idea to let the government keep on doing it. But nowhere does Mr Rothwell question the propriety of government owned and run schools.

The only rational solution of course is to completely shut down the Federal Dept of Education and turn all education over to the states. The Dept of Ed is like a military jackboot on the cognitive throats of our children's minds preventing them from developing their ability to think in terms of principles.

The beauty of state control of education is that the states will do things differently from each other. Best practices will of course have best results. These results will be out there for everyone to see and adopt. I can imagine for example some state declaring English to be a phonetic language and will henceforth be taught phonetically and all forms of sight recognition--whole word, whole language--are out.

Another state may introduce strict hierarchy to its math curriculum where kids will master arithmetic before moving on to set theory and algebra. Together, these will represent a trend away from centralized control which I'm sure will continue within the states leading eventually to more real localized control where parents will then have real say in their kid's education. And isn't that what we all want?

The link to the oped is here: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2015/10/29/doug-rothwell-michigan-test/74836082/

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bad climate advice for Republicans.

The Sunday 8/16 Detroit Free Press has an oped by Bob Inglis and Mark Reynolds titled "The right way for Republicans to address climate change." The right way of course is to agree with the Democrats who are all in on the notion that man made global warming is impending doom unless we change our consumption of fossil fuels which cause emissions of carbon dioxide which will cause the alleged doom.


Born global warming, climate change is the new demon we are all supposed to fear and of course from which we are to seek our salvation by relying on an all caring and benevolent institution of legalized force (government).


Since man started forming societies with governments it has always been the aim of government to keep its populace in a state of fear from various demons which will destroy them unless they trust government to protect them. Naturally the government will need taxes to protect them. It's one of the oldest scams in history.


"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." H. L. Mencken

When I was growing up it was acid rain that was going to destroy the planet unless we humans changed our evil ways. Then it was global cooling that would end all life on earth unless we seriously changed our evil ways this time. (The planet did cool by 2 tenths of a degree celsius from 1940 to 1975 and this 2 tenths of a degree was said to portend of "The coming ice age" as Time Magazine declared).

About the same time another demon was announced: the Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich. He announced in his book by the same name that millions of us were going to die of starvation in the 1970s because the planet simply could not sustain such a large population. His solution was for us to give up our industrial and technical civilizations and return to a more primitive lifestyle i.e. change our evil ways.


That was followed by global warming which will destroy the world by creating a blanket of carbon dioxide (Co2) which will heat up the earth so much it will destroy all life unless we stop emitting Co2 into the atmosphere i.e. change our evil ways. Trouble is, carbon dioxide does not act the way Al Gore and all the government paid scientists say it does.

Did you know that cutting back on our Co2 emissions is actually going in the wrong direction? I've read that if our atmospheric Co2 content ever gets cut back to or lower than 150 parts per million, ppm, plant life will start to die off on earth. Animals of course would follow. Here is an article explaining it. Here is another one on the benefits of Co2.

Did Al Gore mentions this in his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth?" Nope. Must have been too inconvenient. How about Tom Brokaw in his documentary "Global Warming: Everything You Need to Know?" Not there either. Everything? Really?

How about the fact that North America is a net carbon sink? A net carbon sink is an area of the planet that removes from the atmosphere more Co2 than it puts in. Here is an article on that. Did either of the two above mentioned gentlemen mention this? Again, no.


If you would like to know how Co2 works I recommend CO2 Science. The Idso family has been rounding up studies of how Co2 acts in our atmosphere and upon life on Earth for a long time.


Other sites I recommend are:

 Science and Environmental Policy Project or SEPP:


The Climate Depot.


The Climate Audit.


Watts up with that.

Their sites may also contain links to other great sources.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

End prevailing wage laws.

The Sunday 7/26 Detroit Free Press caries an oped by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan titled "Paying fair wage is right way to rebuild Detroit and state." The fair wage he's talking about is the prevailing wage put into place by law. It forces companies building public works projects to pay their workers wages equal to union wages whether workers are union or not. It's nothing but a special interest worker benefits plan giving some workers wages not available on the open market. Politicians do this in order to win the labor vote and no other reason. The idea that it guarantees a higher quality of worker is debatable. It implies that non-union workers are less than qualified and less trustworthy. Nonsense.

But a real problem is the cost to taxpayers for this special interest program. An article in the Detroit News in May of this year reports:

"A 2013 study from the Anderson Economic Group highlights just how costly the prevailing wage law is for the state.
Public universities, community colleges and school districts — or rather taxpayers — have to pay an additional $224 million a year, thanks to the law.
In addition to the support of many GOP lawmakers, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan favor repealing the law."
So we see that there is $224 million per year that could be going to Michigan roads, or schools or returned to taxpayers.

But the real problem with the prevailing wage is that it violates the rights of businessmen and workers to negotiate among each other for the fairest wage. The law tries to force workers to be worth more to their employers that they would be in a open market. Of course it is the taxpayers who have to cough up the money not Mr Duggan or the unions.

In another News article from January of this year

"During the mid 1990s, the law was suspended by a federal district court ruling and, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, as non-union construction companies competed on an equal footing for the first time in decades, the state gained 11,000 construction jobs.
Under prevailing wage, union bosses get richer while non-union builders and contractors lose money, taxpayers get charged more, and school children have to do with less."
I agree. It is time to do away with the prevailing wage law and let the benefits of competition ensue.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Foreclose on government control of the economy

The Thursday and Friday, 6/25,26 print editions of the Detroit News carried a series titled "Foreclosures fuel Detroit blight, cost city millions" by reporters Christine MacDonald and Joel Kurth. The on line version is here. It is a very well written article going in depth describing the devastation not only in terms of property but in terms of human misery and suffering.

But I'm afraid it doesn't go deep enough. It seems to confine its focus on appearances, empty and burnt out hulks, some demolished, and the testimony of those survivors relating the depressing experiences they suffered. There are many references to the fact that sub-prime mortgages and loans were the main culprit. And if you confine your vision to the immediately visible, you'd be right.

But nowhere in the report is the question asked; what caused banks and mortgage companies who had been for decades been loaning only to those whom they thought had a decent chance of repaying the loan, suddenly go irrational and start lending to people they knew unlikely to pay it back? One answer proffered is:

     ""The stage was set with gross irresponsibility by the banking industry, and I still think that they ought to be made to pay cities that are left to clean up the mess," said Frank Ford, a senior policy adviser for the Thriving Communities Institute, a nonprofit land protection group based in Cleveland that has studied vacant land and foreclosures in northern Ohio. "This was done by people making bad decisions, repeatedly, in some cases knowingly.""

Again, why did people who seemingly made rational decisions in the past start making irrational ones from 2005 (the report's timeline start) on up?  No answer given. The existence of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are mentioned as foreclosures of homes and as buyers of mortgages but not much more about their role in creating the housing bubble. In fact, the concept housing bubble was not even mentioned. This is why I think the article's timeline should go back even farther than 2005 to when other Federal agency players came into existence. But the authors only covered the era of foreclosures.

Also there is no mention of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) which was modified to a ratings agency under Clinton so that any bank or mortgage company that wanted to expand its business had to show it loaned a certain amount to low income people thus encouraging risky loans by those banks. For a more detailed look at the CRA see this article.

There was no one single cause of the 2008 mortgage crises. It was a combination of the Fed keeping interest rates way too low, the CRA encouraging risky loans, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac being encouraged to buy up those risky loans and mortgages, bundle and resell them in the market spreading the risk in ever widening circles. There was also this notion of "too big to fail" which I think was the promise to the banking industry that Fannie and Freddie will take care of them and their sub prime loans. There were other smaller contributors to the meltdown but these were the major players.

Although well written regarding the extent of damage to life and property, this report misinforms the public as to the real causes. Thus the public will continue to believe that the mortgage crisis was caused by the bankers who did it all on their own with no incentives from government. The public will continue to call for more regulations despite the fact that the banking and finance industries are the most heavily regulated industries in the nation and that such regulation did not protect the citizens from harm but rather increased its likely hood.




Monday, May 25, 2015

Republican bashing at its best.


The Sunday May 17th Detroit Free Press was in full assault mode on the GOP in its editorial page. Editorial editor Stephan Henderson pens an oped titled "How the poor stay that way'" subtitled 'Holding Michigan Back.' It has a cartoon drawing of the state capitol as a monster snatching up citizens presumably to be eaten. This monster is flying a flag that reads "GOP war on the poor." This is more of a bashing of Republicans than a concern for the poor. My comments are in brackets.

      "Policy-making is the way we send messages about priorities in our system of government. [Who is 'we'? As a citizen I haven't been in on any policy-making so 'we' must refer to the politicians and professional pundits who advise them like Mr Henderson. These priorities then are] "What's important and what's not. Who's first in line for the fruits of democracy and who's last."

['What's important and what's not' asks an answer to the question  'important' to whom? Citizens or government? If he means citizens then they should get to chose what's important to them and therefore need the freedom to pursue it. If government, then it decides what is important and forces it on the citizens, a progressive ideal.

Now I know that pundits often write in metaphors but look at the one Mr Henderson presents; it is a basket or pile of fruits of democracy for which citizens must line up to get, so the message for policy-makers is only who goes first and last. Does that sound like picking winners and losers to you? It does to me. It's also an image of  'the fruits are here. How did they get here? Not important. What's important? How to distribute them more fairly than the citizens would if left free to do so.']

     "So if you're poor, and particularly if you're among the working poor--people who earn paychecks too meager to sustain a family, much less get ahead--what message do you imagine you're being sent by the people of Michigan and their representatives these days? From where I sit, it looks like this: Drop Dead."

[Evidently the poor and working poor are not part of the 'people of Michigan' but are a separate group victimized by them. This is of course a slap in the face to all citizens; the working poor for choosing a wage so obviously unjust it won't move them up the ladder and raise a family (which itself is debatable); and to the rest of the evil citizens and their representatives who voted for this unjust system and are telling them now to drop dead. I think a profound contempt for citizens being free to choose their own decisions and actions could not be much more obvious.]

     "Let's review a few headlines that rolled out over the last two weeks.
     On Wednesday, the state Senate passed a package of bills that would strip prevailing-wage requirements out of government construction contracts. It's important to note that the law sets rates not only for experienced contractors, but for apprentices--young people, many of them poor, trying to get into construction trades, but who need training before they can work full time."

[So you see the poor are everywhere and that's why the prevailing-wage is noble and virtuous! One can easily get the impression that if all Americans were millionaires, billionaires and trillionaires, the millionaires would be the new poor. For my comments on the prevailing-wage I'll only say here that government should not be mandating anyone's wages anywhere. Wages should be decided by voluntary agreement to mutual benefit between worker and employer and/or those chosen to represent them.]

     "At the same time, a House committee is considering a bill that would make it illegal for any local government in Michigan to mandate wages higher than the state minimum wage, provide paid or unpaid leave time, participate in any educational or training programs, or regulate hours or scheduling. For low-wage workers, that pretty much ensures you'll stay low-wage, no matter where you live in Michigan."

[I think I would agree to the mandate part of that bill. Local governments should have the freedom to choose what they can afford to do. But it's unclear about why participation in educational and training programs would be illegal. I would take that with a grain of salt. But the GOP is in control for now so coloring as suspect everything they do or even consider is par for the progressive course.

After bemoaning the defeat off Prop 1 and the failure to reinstate the Earned Income Tax Credit Mr Henderson goes on to say;]

     "The average credit in 2013 was $138; recipients almost always put that money back into the economy, and for poor families, that modest influx of cash can be instrumental for an emergency car repair, medical costs or paying the rent."

[The EITC is nothing more than throwing some crumbs back to the poor to keep them voting Democrat. It is designed to keep the poor poor. It certainly will not help them "sustain a family or get ahead" as Mr. Henderson admonished earlier. Besides it is not the government's job to pay anyone's bills. To really help the poor would be to protect their freedom to provide for their own welfare. The proper job of government is "to secure these rights" per our Declaration of Independence, and not try to be the great provider of everyone's daily bread.(crumbs)

His oped is too long to critique every paragraph. It is however more of the same old threadbare Marxist notions that capitalism creates poverty by way of the rich exploiting the poor. The fact that capitalism has created the greatest explosion of wealth the world has ever seen completely escapes Mr Henderson. Or, if it doesn't, he refuses to see the cause of that prosperity, political and economic freedom. He does not say why the poverty he cites exists except, like president Obama, to blame it on Republicans.]

     "Here in Michigan, the Republican-led Legislature seems hell bent on making things worse for the working poor, which raises key questions about not only policy, but morality and and the faithfulness of democratic representation."

[Translation:' the Republicans are evil and immoral and only us Democrats are moral.' Progressives have always used the moral argument against the GOP but hiding it behind the shield of pragmatism. They claim they are not ideologues but just being pragmatic. But if you press them hard enough you'll hear their moral insinuations just like the above.

 My retort to that is, advocating policies that hurt the poor like regulations on business, minimum wage laws, prevailing wage laws, Quantitative easing by the Fed, destroying children's minds through Progressive Ed's intentional abandonment of the hierarchical nature of learning, making them dependent on the state through all the welfare programs etc, etc, is a strange way to show a moral concern for poor people. The prevailing wage raises the costs of education construction making education as such more expensive--an odd way to show a moral concern for poor children.

Mr Henderson does a good job of demonstrating how poverty seems to be growing throughout the state citing data that claims to show 40% of the state is now in poverty. But lets not forget that poverty in America is relative. Poverty for a family of four is now over $24,000, a level considered wealthy in third world countries where poverty is absolute.

Today we have more welfare programs on our books to help the poor than ever before yet we are told the poverty rate keeps growing. You would think that a person genuinely concerned for the poor would look at this and be motivated to question his premises and perhaps ask are our efforts to help the poor actually creating more of them?

But they won't ask that question because they haven't bothered to ask the more fundamental question, what kind of creature is the human being? What are the requirements for his survival and happiness? Our founders knew those requirements were political and economic freedom. It wasn't government welfare that created America's wealth. It was freedom. Progressives want the poor to be dependent on them. It makes them feel morally good. Political freedom destroys that illusion, and is the only way to really help the poor.]

Thursday, May 07, 2015

We knew this was coming.

Now that Proposition 15-1 went down in flames at the hands of Michigan voters the response from the political and intellectual establishments is oh so predictable. From editorials bemoaning the voters reluctance to "do the right thing" (hammer ourselves into austerity) to scolding voters for bringing this (crumbling roads) upon themselves, and chastising the politicians for not doing their job (jamming higher taxes down our throats) legislatively.

     The theme the intellectual establishment (MSM) is putting out is that Prop 1 was just too complicated for us presumably dim witted voters (it was complicated) to comprehend and if only it were dumbed down sufficiently for us to understand we would have been eager to part with 2 billion of our dollars.

     Stephen Henderson is the editorial page editor for the Detroit Free Press. He starts his editorial with:

     "Self defeat is never pretty.
               And if you're sitting around thinking that the spectacular death of Proposal 1 at the polls marks a
     defeat for anyone but us, the people of Michigan, then you are sorely deluded."

     No sir. We are not deluded. This was a defeat for the politicians for not managing our taxpayer money responsibly. Prop 1 was initially sold to the public as a fix for the roads. Only after concerned citizen groups started reading it and pointing out that 40% of the $2 billion was to go to other interests like schools, local municipal governments, transportation, pay off transportation debt and add to the general fund, did voters begin to question it.

     Then the government proponents ran ads showing a chunk of cement from a bridge supposedly fallen through the windshield, laying on the passenger seat of a car. A school bus with a slab of concrete laying on the partially crushed cab was trucked around the state saying this could happen to our kids if we don't cough up the dough they wanted for roads. It was scaremongering taken to a new and disgusting level.

But what's disconcerting to me is how the state government and the media refuse to think outside the box of government control. For instance, if the roads have decayed to the point of a serious threat to citizens while under the control of government, don't you think some thinkers would question the wisdom of letting government continue to run them? It's time to consider taking responsibility for roads away from the government. There are lots of private roads in this country and they're maintained nicely. But the thinking by politicians and pundits that government should be the provider of our daily paved bread is just too irresistible.

     Mr Henderson concludes with two paragraphs: (my comments in parenthesis)

     "What we can't do is continue to make decisions that punish ourselves in the name of striking out at poorly thought-up initiatives, or at legislators. (If we don't strikeout at poor thinking, it will continue.--MN) Prop 1 was a way forward--a difficult, deal-laden, complicated way forward, but that's the way the system works"

"That's the way the system works" is the box out of which they are unable or unwilling to think. More:
     "If we want to do better, if we want to force legislators to confront this issue in the short term and the future, in a more thoughtful way, it's up to us to say so. (We just did! On May 5th--MN) Otherwise, we'll suffer with exactly what we've got. And no one should be proud of that."
Today's, May 7th Detroit News--whose editorial page of 5/3 or 5/4 was all for Prop 1--has an oped by Joe Lapointe, a free lance writer, titled "Michigan needs toll roads." In it he make the point that:

     "In 40 years as a traveling journalist, I've rented cars in three dozen states. I've seen many tolls roads work efficiently with EZ-Pass, an electronic windshield device that records where people get on and get off the toll roads and bills them accordingly."
There can be many ways to finance roads other than taxes and all of these need to be examined. But that will require thinking in different terms. And THAT is what Michigan voters just said they want.