Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Responding to Incentives

I know of a married couple that intends to sell their house. And they are smart. They intend to wait until this summer, when some new government incentives (and disincentives) kick in. As I understand the program, first time home buyers will be eligible for an $8,000 tax break as well as 4% interest rates.

All righty then. Our government will soon be implementing a program that give advantages to first time buyers, coupled with disadvantages for those who have previously purchased a home.

So what should a home seller do? Well, the home sellers that I know intend to target first time home buyers in their marketing efforts. Now these folks don't really care whether the buyer of their home is a first time buyer or a hundredth time buyer. What they want is to sell their house for as much as they can. And they think that they can get the most out of first time buyers. And in my view, they may well be correct.

The net result of this new government favoritism toward first time buyers? First time buyers will be able to bid up the price on homes because they have a significant, government provided subsidy. This will artificially drive up the price of homes. Thus second time home buyers will have to pay more for a house.

Why the government should punish people because they have owned or currently own a home is beyond me.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

On Elitism

A very good question was posed to me recently that I didn't have an answer for. It was, wouldn't you want elites to run the country?

I guess my answer would depend on the meaning of elite. If by elite we mean people of extraordinary ability, then perhaps so. If we mean people of exceptional character, then perhaps so. If by elite we mean people that graduated from the right school and associate with other elites, then perhaps not.

I want elites in the private sector. I want someone who is certain that he can cure cancer or design an I-phone that I will purchase. In the private sector, elites will succeed and become wealthy by producing something that others will want or need. If they fail, it is their problem. Well, it used to be only their problem.

The public sector is a different matter. Elites by their very nature, are not humble. They think they know better than the common folk. They think they can direct our lives better than we can. They will be inclined to think they have all the answers. They will grow the size and scope of government while diminishing the liberty and responsibility of the electorate. The problem as I see it is that while someone might just be elite enough to know how to cure cancer or design a great I-phone, there is nobody elite enough to direct the lives of millions of people.

Being elite and therefore lacking in humility, they may think they can. They can't, but they will try. And they will fail. And this is why elites are dangerous people to elect.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Question of the Day

Every few months, Racine Horlick social studies teacher and social activist Al Levie is in the news. This time he led a hundred or so public school students (during school hours) and many adults to Madison, to lobby for drivers licenses and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, er, undocumented immigrants.

Can a teacher properly teach a subject AND lead his students in partisan political lobbying on the same subject?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Redefining Racism Part 2

Kevin Lockett (see comments on most recent post) is an advocate for the new definition of racism (prejudice plus privilege plus power) as it acknowledges "the history of racism and the power structure in this country" and it acknowledges that racism is not just an individual problem but also a collective problem. Read his own comments please, but as a shortcut I have tried to accurately depict his viewpoint.

I have a few issues with his argument. First, there is the the problem of circularity, ie using the word racism in the definition of racism. Secondly, his definition mistakenly focuses on this country only, though racism is a phenomenon that can and does exist in most if not all countries.

It seems to me that the most charitable explanation for the redefinition (including the power element) is to accomodate or account for the differing expressions of racism. I do understand this argument. A great example is anti-semitism. This could range from a mildly harmful attitude to death in a gas chamber. But the range of actions that might flow from a mindset (anti-semitism or racism) is not sufficient, imho, to justify changing a definition and confusing an already difficult issue.

Why not change the definition of love or compassion? Certainly people and nations have varying degrees of power or ability to respond lovingly or compassionately to a problem. Take the problem of AIDS in largely black sub Saharan Africa. Should we change the definition of compassion such that it acknowledges the history of concern that Americans have demonstrated for the plight of Africans suffering from AIDS? Aren't we, US citizens, more loving than those loveless Ecuadorians?

So my point is that if we are to change the definition of bad attitudes, like racism, to reflect the varying ability of people or nations to act on said bad attitudes, then we should do the same with good attitudes.

Maybe then, Kevin Lockett will rejoice in the news that he lives in the most loving and compassionate nation that has ever existed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Redefining Racism

Martha Barry, racial justice programmer at the YWCA of Greater Milwaukee, defines racism as "prejudice plus privilege plus power to oppress." The mission of the YMCA of GM is to "eliminate racism and empower women."

Let's take a look at that definition of racism. Prejudice plus privilege plus power. Prejudice alone does not make one a racist according to Barry's definition. One must also have privilege and power.

So what is privilege? Can a black person have privilege? Can a woman? Do all white people have privilege? Where does it come from? Can it be transferred to someone else? Can it be eliminated? Who should eliminate it? Can privilege be eliminated without the use of power? Since power is a component of racism, and racism is bad and should be eliminated, should we elimate power? Given the association of power to racism, why would the YWCA want to empower women?

As for me, I will stick with Webster's definition of racism which is "the assumption that the characteristics and abilities of an individual are detirmined by race and that one race is biologically superior to another."

By redefining racism, Barry by definition lets members of certain races off the hook for being racists. The goal of the YWCA seemingly is to shift power from one race to another. If successful, would this end racism? Aren't we just changing who the racists are? Or are we to assume that a newly empowered and privileged race, lets say black people, would be less likely to be racist than whites?

Perhaps newly empowered blacks and women wouldn't be as racist as white people. But if we assume that upfront, aren't we believing that blacks and women are morally superior to whites and men, since they will be able to resist the temptations of power while white people, or empowered and privileged people, continue to oppress?

Is the YWCA meeting the Webster's definition of racism?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Greg Helding, Conservative?

Racine mayoral candidate Greg Helding has called for the demolition of the "infamous" Jacato Drive apartments, according to a recent article in the Racine Journal Times. From the article:

“It is high time to solve this problem once and for all,” he stated in a news release. “The law allows the city to proceed against the buildings as a public nuisance.

It is often said that Greg Helding is one of two conservatives running for mayor, the other being Jody Harding. Is Greg Helding's proposal conservative?

Not in my view. Conservatives believe in limited government, the rule of law, personal responsibility, and property rights, among other things.

Let us consider the GH's proposal in light of the beliefs or values typically held by conservatives.

1. Limited government. GH's proposes to take and destroy private property owned by people neither accused of or convicted of any crime. This is unlimited government power. Indeed, this is abuse of power and conservatives should not stand for it. Oh, and it would be very expensive with court costs, lawsuits, razing costs, relocation costs etc...

2. Rule of law. This is the idea that laws should be fairly, rather than arbitrarily, applied. GH's proposal to demolish nuisance properties would be arbitrarily applied. How do I know this? I am willing to bet that the three buildings that require the most police responses are Horlick, Park, and Case. Will these buildings be destroyed? No, of course not.

3. Personal responsibility. There are people committing crimes in Racine, to be sure. Rather than hold the criminals responsible for their own behavior, GH instead proposes to destroy the property of the people who have not been accused of any crime. Why not hold criminals responsible for the crime problem?

4. Property rights. GH's proposal is just another of a series of proposals and policies that undermine the rights of property owners in Racine.

Many of GH's proposals are not conservative. Indeed, he has seemingly embraced and or proposed virtually every big government idea at City Hall. I take no pleasure in saying so. GH understands conservative thought but it seems to me that he no longer embraces conservative ideas. If he believes otherwise, he is most welcome to chime in here.

Where are the Protesters?

Does anyone protest against the war in Iraq anymore? There used to be weekly protests here in Racine, letters to the editor etc... but not any more. Did something change? Is the war over? Did we win? If anyone can fill me in on what happened in Iraq, I would greatly appreciate it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

To Blame or not to Blame

A commentary in today's JT by local liberal activist Sister Michelle Olley has me scratching my head.

On the one hand she says:

Billions of people are caught in the unrelieved miseries of poverty, hunger, homelessness, disease, illiteracy, family disintegration and injustice while the tax evaders, risky investors, irresponsible spenders, overly compensated CEOs etc. wash their hands and insist that they are not responsible for the starvation, infant mortality, crime etc.

And then this:

When we start blaming each other for some problems, we can't focus on working together to bring about the best outcomes. To blame rarely enhances our understanding of the troubling situation and often hampers effective problem solving.

I blame Sister Michelle Olley. Her overly simplified attack on business and excesses by people in business have left her unfocused while hampering her "understanding of the troubling situation" that we find ourselves in.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Re Public School Curriculum/Political Agenda

In my ten years or so of observing local news, I don't ever recall hearing of a public school teacher being fired for anything other than criminal conduct. So I am rather intrigued by the recent firing of a World History teacher at Park being fired for departing from the curriculum. The full story can be found at journaltimes.com.

From the article:

After a meeting with Park and Unified officials Nov. 18, Pinter was given a formal reprimand. According to the written reprimand, the meeting was held “to discuss concerns over the appropriateness of teaching religious concepts and topics” in the class.

“The information that you have presented to your students crosses the line in terms of what should be taught in this course and goes way beyond the level of interest for this topic,” Park’s directing principal, Dan Thielen, wrote in the letter.

Pinter said worksheets he prepared that included scriptural verses were based on the district-sanctioned textbook, and he has used them before. It wasn’t an attempt to sway students’ beliefs, he said.

“I would never say this is the way it is,” Pinter said. “I say Muslims believe this. Christians believe this. I never say I believe this.”

He said he didn’t touch on Christianity again and thought the episode was over. Then in January the district alerted him that Thielen recommended he not be renewed “based on poor classroom management, failure to follow the District’s curriculum and ineffective teaching.”

A bit later in the article, a school board member who voted for Pinter's dismissal said that the case "focused on the teacher’s failure to follow the curriculum."

Now it may well be that Pinter is a lousy teacher. But I can't help but notice the double standard here. If a teacher teaches about world religion in a world history class, he gets fired for departing from the curriculum. But if a history teacher at, say, Horlick High School manages to get his student riled up enough to fight for the "rights" of illegal immigrants and to pester locals into passing another school referendum, then that teacher is following the curriculum?

Well at least we are getting some insight into the curriculum at our public schools, namely, left wing political movements.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Coming Clean

OK, I will come clean. My last thread, "Experts Warn of Split White Vote" was a lie. I made it up as an experiment. I wanted to see what kind of reaction I would get.

A few days ago, I came upon a local site called Insider News. The Insider News is a newspaper and web site that caters primarily to Racine's black community, so far as I can tell. Anyway, I found a thread entitled "Experts Warn of Split Black Vote." That thread is now gone, replaced by a similar, longer thread entitled "Will the Black Vote Split." You can read it at racineinsider.blogspot.com.
Anyway, the relevant paragraph is still there. It reads:

"Some black community leaders will not say it publicly, but they are concerned a crowded field including three well-known black candidates in the Racine mayoral campaign could split the black vote and throw the race to a white candidate."

Sound familiar? I basically used the same wording except I switched white for black and posted:

"I am aware of some white community leaders that won't say it publicly, but they are concerned that a crowded field in the mayoral race, including several well known white candidates, could split the white vote and throw the race to a black candidate."

Frankly, I find it rather disturbing that there are community leaders who openly (well, depending on the race of the listener) espouse racial solidarity in an election. Disturbing, but not surprising.

Thankfully, the Free Racine readers who did react displayed a negative reaction to the faux news regarding white solidarity. Not so over at the Insider News. Electing a black candidate apparently trumps, for some, electing the best candidate. How sad.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Experts Warn of Split White Vote

I am aware of some white community leaders that won't say it publicly, but they are concerned that a crowded field in the mayoral race, including several well known white candidates, could split the white vote and throw the race to a black candidate.

Please share your thoughts or comments.

Friday, March 06, 2009

On Emotions and Laws

"I see the same slippery slope, but I'm confident that society, legislators, Chief Executives and Judges can handle it just fine."

The above quote is from Rich Preston, a new participant here at Free Racine. It is regarding our disagreement on gay marriage. I contend that the same argument used to change the definition of marriage (basically that the present definition discriminates) can be used to change the definition further to include polygamy (aren't we then discriminating against those oriented toward multiple spouses?) or other combinations or permutations.

But RP is confident in society, judges etc... that marriage would not change any further. Or perhaps he is confident that it will change further but that that too is good. Perhaps Rich will clarify.

We have tampered with our legal system to such an extent that it will increasingly become nonsensical. Take for example the results of expansive interpretaions of the Commerce clause (regulating interstate commenrce) and the judicialy created right to privacy. So now we have a right to abort a child in a public hospital because of a right to privacy, but we don't have the same right to smoke a joint in our own home, with pot from our own garden (not an admission of guilt here, FYI) because it violates interstate commerce regulations.

Now this is not a screed against abortion or for pot smoking but rather an observation that if an abortion in a public place is protected on privacy grounds, why wouldn't smoking pot in a private place be likewise protected.

Such oddities will continue to happen when we endorse illogical laws based on emotional considerations. And RP is right that the elites in society will handle this type of nonsense. The rest of us will have a more difficult time navigating a leagal system that makes no sense.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Observations on Abortion, Government Health Care

Consider the following letter to the JT by one Mrs. William Hansen:

In answer to Linda Peterson's comment (Feb. 26) on abortion: You think abortion is wrong? Well, so is starving babies, shaking babies, abandoning children, having children you can't afford to feed, clothe or house. Life is precious, but so is a good one.

Now I did not read Linda Peterson's letter that Mrs. Hansen was responding to, but I am willing to bet that she did not advocate for the starving and shaking of babies.

To think that there is actually a person out there that thinks that an opponent of abortion is therefore an advocate of child abuse and torture.

Coming soon, a bureaucrat may one day decide whether Mrs. Hansen's life is precious enough to save.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

PC Nicknames

I went to a basketball game last night featuring the Hawks vs the Crusaders. I wonder how long it will take before the matchup is Doves vs Toleraters.

Theory of the Day

The amount a local or state government spends touting opportunities for businesses is proportionate to the number and degree of business-hostile policies that they have enacted.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Right to Bare Arms

I don't know why people are making a fuss about Michelle Obama's apparent preference for sleeveless shirts.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Econ 101

The Sheperd Express has announced that Charlie Sykes is this weeks "Jerk of the Week."

"Charlie Sykes, who is still arguing that this package will not stimulate the economy because it is a variety of Democratic programs. Charlie either doesn't understand Economics 101 or he does and chooses to misinform his listeners. So Charlie, are you dumb or just a liar?" asks the SE.

And, argues the SE, "If people were paid to dig a hole and bury a newspaper, it would have the same stimulus impact (as Obama's plan) because these shovelers would then spend their wages and create more jobs." Why bother with the shoveling? Why not just give people vouchers so that they spend it?

Count me among those that don't understand Econ 101, if this is how it is being taught these days. Sure, I understand that spending stimulates, but the SE seems to be making the leap that any spending will be good for the economy.

How can this be so? What the SE fails to account for is the fact that the money paid to dig holes will have to be paid back. And where will that money come from? Money spent will either be wasted or it will be used to generate wealth. If it wasted, how will we pay the money back?

In the long run, whether government spending is good for the economy depends on whether it is well spent. The same is true in the private sector. If I make a wise investment I will generate additional wealth. If I spend it on a stimulating substance, say cocaine, I will certainly harm my own financial situation.

The idea that any spending will automatically help the economy in the long run makes no sense to me. Any Obama defenders want to take a shot at explaining this to me, in plain English please?