Friday, January 29, 2010

Joke of the Day

Question: Why does President Obama favor high speed rail?

Answer: Because the road to serfdom is too slow.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Obama Forgives

I was listening to President Obama propose things other than a takeover of the health care industry today. If I heard him correctly, he was proposing student loan debt forgiveness for some college graduates who choose to work in public service.

The first thing to realize is that nobody in their right mind would lend money under these circumstances. So, if it hasn't happened already, the student loan business will be taken over by the government. Or, to put it another way, taxpayers will be forced to provide forgiveable loans, or grants, to the art history majors who can't cut it in the real world.

I am also bothered by the bias in favor of public service employees, by which I suppose he means government employees. Does President Obama think that government employees are the only ones that serve the public?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Lesson for Sean

I have been reading Kays Blue Racine lately, mostly to enjoy the hilarious explanations for the defeat in Massachusetts. One of her regulars, Sean Cranley, is especially unglued. He asked me, in a most childish manner, to offer my solution to the health care problems that we face. I gave a wise ass answer that you can read yourself if you like. I have link to her site on the right of this blog.

Anyway, I did begin to wonder how to explain my position to someone with such limited mental faculties. It is a real dilemma. Imagine trying to teach Calculus to someone who can't add and who thinks math and math teachers are evil. Not an easy task.

Step one needs to be a discussion about zero sum and positive sum transactions. A zero sum transaction is where one party benefits at the expense of another. A positive sum transaction is where both parties benefit.

Example of a positive sum transaction: Sean has two bicycles and I have two computers. We trade freely, I get one of his bicycles and he gets one of my computers. We are both better off, ie wealthier. Wealth has been created.

Example of a zero sum transaction: Sean steals my computer. Sean is wealthier by the amount of the value of the computer, while I am poorer by the same amount. This is a zero sum transaction. The total value of the transaction is zero. No wealth is created.

The problem with Sean is that he mistakenly thinks that mutually agreeable transactions (ie free trade/capitalism etc...) is an example of a zero sum game. The greedy business, stealing or exploiting etc..., gains at the expense of the consumer. He is wrong. The transactions are not forced on anyone, they are freely made by both parties for the purpose of mutual gain.

Another problem Sean has is an inexplicable faith that government, so long as it is run by liberals, is engaged in positive sum activity. Tax the productive, give to the needy and all will be well. To most thinking people, this more closely resembles a zero sum transaction. When you take from one person and give to another, one gains at the expense of the other, ie a zero sum.

So Sean has it exactly backwards. Until he gets lesson one, it will be impossible to proceed further. You can't teach Calculus to a person who can't add, hates math, and hates the teacher. Good luck Sean!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

On Cancer and Islam

I attend a philosophy club meeting on Wednesdays. During the past two weeks I heard the same argument from two different people. We were discussing the treatment of women in Islamic countries and the argument went something like this: There is a much lower incidence of cancer among these women, this can be attributed to the reduced amount of stress because they are not working/competing in the labor market, so we should not presume that women are treated badly in Islamic countries.

I have a few problems with this argument. It assumes that stress is the primary cause of cancer. As an aside, I am a bit horrified to learn that this argument came from a person working at a cancer treatment center. Take some radiation, quit your job, call me in the morning. Another problem I have is the willingness to overlook mistreatment, so long as the mistreated don't get cancer. Suppose the incidence of cancer were found to be lower among the slave population in the south. Would we then have to conclude that slavery is OK and who are we to question another culture?

On Correlation and Crime

Alderman Wisneski thinks there is a correlation between alcohol sold at restaurants and crime. Maybe so, but I suspect the correlation is rather weak. On the other hand, I think there is a much stronger correlation between the following, and crime:

1. Being a male.
2. Being young, say between the ages of 15 and 35.
3. Being black.

Perhaps Alderman Wisneski, if he wants to be consistent, will propose punitive measures on the young, males, and black people who want to move into Racine.

I guess it is somehow OK to profile restaurant patrons but not OK to profile those people more strongly correlated with crime. A better idea in my view would be to get tough on the people with a 1 to 1 correlation with crime, ie criminals.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On Correlation, unemployment

Want to open a restaurant in Racine? Before doing so, understand that our elected officials think you will be contributing to Racine's crime problem in doing so. So to dampen your entreprenurial ambitions, and to counteract the harm you will bring to our community, they will tax you $10,000.

The issue here is liquor licenses. The city voted last night to reintroduce the $10,000 tax, or more accurately, to discontinue the $9,500 rebate that they had been issuing for the licenses.

According to a brief JT article, Alderman Aron Wisneski said it will help the city in that "people say the crime rate is too high and there is a direct correlation between alcohol and crime."

There may well be a correlation between alcohol and crime and if so, then there is also a correlation between criminals and alcohol consumption. Since alcohol will still be sold in Racine, criminals who wish to drink before their crime binges will still have every opportunity to do so. Reducing criminal activity will be accomplished by locking up criminals, not by discouraging business start ups with oppressive taxes.

On a positive note, it is good that Alderman Wisneski is interested in correlation. My suggestion would be to look into any correlation between policies that discourage entrepreneurship and unemployment rates.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Walden Outreach

Yesterday I met an impressive young lady from Walden High School. We had a conversation about Walden, my blog, my interactions with Walden students, political activism, etc... Our conversation was a bit disjointed because I was simultaneously trying to help other customers. But I realize that I need to clarify my thoughts on all things Walden, so here goes.

Walden students who read this should know that generalizations about Walden students are just that, generalizations, and therefore may or may not apply to a particular individual. Additionally, my opinions about Walden students have been influenced primarily by those most active in environmental politics. As such, I realize that my opinions have been influenced by a skewed sampling. Indeed, perhaps it is only a handful of Walden students who have influenced my views.

Moving on, I recognize that Walden students have the highest test scores among Racine's public schools. Given the dismal state of RUSD, this should be, and is, accomplished year after year.

Frequent readers of this blog have probably picked up on a general attitude towards elites. Generally I am not impressed. I find young elites to be among the most insufferable people on earth. By elites I mean people who behave as though they are so smart or accomplished and that because of their superiority they ought to have control over society's riff raff. I don't think that the most accomplished adult in the world should hold such an attitude, so naturally, children or young adults, with even fewer accomplishments, ought not to think they are bright enough to rule over others. Sadly, it seems Walden is something of a breeding ground for this type of elitism.

The only reason Walden students have come to my attention is because they have entered into the political fray. And they have entered it in such a way that I am concerned about the education that they are receiving. Invariably, young activists will claim that their activism has in no way been influenced by adults. I find this claim highly implausible. Inevitably, when weighing in on issues that divide us politically, our local youth activists always advocate for the leftist causes. If there was no influence by adults, the activism would more likely reflect the actual divide in our country, ie a more even split along liberal/conservative lines. My conclusion is that these students are unwitting victims of indoctrination. I don't blame them for this sad state of affairs, I blame the adults who are indoctrinating them.

So my mission is to help these students. I do so by challenging them concerning their activism. I understand that this does not always sit well with students, and that my approach or style might be a bit too combative at times. I have no interest in coddling students, nor do I want to provide an unwarrated boost to their self esteem. I will leave that to others. Rather, I think I can provide a service by challenging some of their beliefs. This is what good teachers should do.

The young lady I spoke to yesterday mentioned that the Walden student activists considered inviting me to one of their meetings. I would most definitely accept such an invitation if offered. I don't consider Walden students enemies in any way, shape, or form. I would thoroughly enjoy an opportunity to discuss differences of opinion on environmentalism, global warming, education, activism etc... with Walden students.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Make Sense of Census

Yesterday a woman came into my store with a flyer about the importance of the upcoming census. There will be a big push to make sure that Racine's population is fully counted so that we can grovel for more money. But, despite the all out effort to boost our numbers, my guess is that Racine's population decline has not been reversed. My hope is that this will prompt our "leaders" to ask some difficult questions. Such as:

Why is Racine's population declining?
Is it a lack of jobs?
If so, is there something about Racine that deters entrepreneurs?
Does RUSD attract or repel potential inhabitants of Racine?
If the latter is correct, what should we do about RUSD?
Does Racine's property tax rate encourage or discourage a move to Racine?
If the latter is correct, what should we do about it?

There are of course many questions a communtiy should be asking in the face of a declining population. But in my ten plus years here in the Racine area, I have yet to see the issue seriously discussed.

But we have time to pass ordinances concerning the proper number of garage sales a person may have. Could it be that our elected officials are cowards, too afraid to address the real issues that face our community?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


I haven't been blogging much lately. I commented lately to a friend that there haven't been many goofy ideas emanating from city hall, hence, less to get worked up about. Well, they are now back to work.

I see on the Racine Post that Alderman Helding is weighing in on/causing a signage issue in Uptown. Apparently an exception to the signage rules would have to be made for a sign proposed by a used car dealer.

I don't know all the details there but it does make me wonder about Helding's priorities in particular and our elected officials priorities in general. As a concerned resident of Racine, I don't worry too much about business signs. I worry about crime, education, taxes and regulations and their effects on economic growth, and the fiscal health of the city.

Perhaps the issues are too big and or too sticky to address. Perhaps it is safer to tackle small problems so as to appear active and concerned. I can't know what is going on in the minds of our elected officials.

Just once I would like to see Greg Helding or any other alderman express concern about the looming financial obligations facing the city and taxpayers. Just what are the projected costs for retiree pensions and other obligations? Are they increasing? At what point will we either raise taxes through the roof (as though that hasn't already happened) or default on our obligations?

I suspect that even the mention of looming fiscal disaster would not sit well with city employees and retirees. So let us look away and distract ourselves.

Look! Over there! Mrs. Jones hasn't cut her grass for weeks. We must do something!