Sunday, October 25, 2009

Economy of Size

On my ten minute commute home every day, the radio goes between Michael Medved, Ed Schultz, and "classic" rock. Friday, I switched over to Ed in the middle of another blast of Health Care blather. Ed and a caller were discussing states that are running huge deficits, that are basically broke, the coffers are empty and the taxpayers tapped out, partially due to generous health care benefits to citizens of those states. They are spending too much money. I believe two of the states are California and Massachusetts. While admitting that rising health care costs have damaged the financial viability of those states, their solution was the federal government running the health care show. Why? Because the states are too small to handle this matter. You need the feds to do the job, because only the federal government is big enough.

Now maybe I've become too much of a radical right wing ideologue, but I fail to see how the federal government would do any better than the states in holding down costs. And California too small? The economy of California is larger than almost all of the countries in the world. There are only six other nations besides the United States that have larger economies than California.

If I understood and remember what they were saying, and if I didn't miss other, more intelligent points, they're running out of plausible reasons as to how the government can do better than the private sector in providing health care and health insurance. (That reminds me of another bit of stupidity - the need for a "public option" because it would end the "monopoly" of private insurers.)

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Things You Can Say When You're Spending Other People's Money

"If it increases costs to pay people a decent wage, so be it,"
Those are the words of Oakland County Commissioner Tim Greimel, a Democrat (what a surprise). The concept is referred to as paying the "prevailing wage."
Greimel's proposal, which his fellow Democrats support, would require construction contractors on county projects to post and pay prevailing wages and benefits -- basically union scale -- as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor. Contractors also would be required to submit forms to the county showing how much they paid to whom.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and the idea was shot down. Buying votes is expensive, and we taxpayers are running out of money, you know, times being what they are and all. And I think unions (including the one that I'm forced to belong to) have entirely too much power in this country.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

More Reasons to Appreciate Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is one of the great minds in the world today. If the MSM and the rest of those who control the output of information in this country weren't so stupidly "progresssive" he would get the recognition he deserves. It's a loss to our nation that he isn't more widely recognized and pushed on readers by the idiots running our MSM.

He's written things like:
“No matter how disastrously some policy has turned out, anyone who criticizes it can expect to hear: "But what would you replace it with?" When you put out a fire, what do you replace it with”
The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”
and especially
“One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain”
He's also written many books over the years. I've read eleven of them. He also writes a regular column that shows up at and at The Jewish World Review. His last two are must reads, Magic Numbers in Politics, Part I and Part II. They are the kind of things that I should forward to all of my liberal friends.
Back in the days of the Soviet Union, two Russian economists who had never lived in a country with a free market economy understood something about market economies that many others who have lived in such economies all their lives have never understood. Nikolai Shmelev and Vladimir Popov said: "Everything is interconnected in the world of prices, so that the smallest change in one element is passed along the chain to millions of others."

What does that mean? It means that a huge increase in the demand for ice cream can mean higher prices for catchers' mitts, among other things.

When more cows are needed to produce more milk to make ice cream, then fewer cows will be slaughtered and that means less cowhide available to make baseball gloves. Supply and demand mean that catchers' mitts are going to cost more.
So, another way to improve education in America, (besides that phonics stuff that I'm always going on about) is to have Sowell as part of the curriculum. He should be required reading for students and teachers, and every blowhard who professes to hate Capitalism, but has no understanding of what Capitalism is, how it works, why it is preferable to Socialism and Communism, and why those systems have never worked without massive amounts of government coercion.

The truly progressive won't listen of course, but there are a fair number of people who, not being progressive sooooooooper geniuses, would.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

In Today's News . . .

The video is called, 4th Grader's Harsh Question for Obama. That title made me think, as I'm sure it would make others think, that a youngster was astute enough to ask the type of question of our president that our president is ignoring Fox News in order to avoid.

Wrong. This is merely another platform for our Nobel Prize winning president to engage in some of his shtick, playing to the audience, coming across as the best loved among all presidents, yet still being hounded by the unenlightened. I must admit that I did not watch the whole thing. I stopped when Mr. Personality - uh - I mean, our president went from "night club comic" mode to "serious big issues" mode.

In other news, the federal deficit hit a record 1.42 trillion dollars. That's $1,420,000,000,000. To me, that's a lot of money. And that's just this year's deficit. So it gets piled on to the debt the government already owes. This is before the Democrats in Congress finish saddling the nation with their health care plans.

On the plus side though (yeah, right),
President Barack Obama has pledged to reduce the deficit once the Great Recession ends and the unemployment rate starts falling, but economists worry that the government lacks the will to make the hard political choices to get control of the imbalances.
I say - when Obama promises, who cares what economists say! But then,
Without significant budget cuts, that would crowd out government spending in such areas as transportation, law enforcement and education. Already, interest on the debt is the third-largest category of government spending, after the government's popular entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare, and the military.
So no matter what happens economically, those popular wealth distribution programs will continue along, no matter how much our government has to borrow, or who has to be scapegoated in order to make it palatable to the American people for the government to tax the scapegoated ones into poverty. As long as our representatives can use our hard earned money to buy themselves votes, everything can hum along in Washington. And if something doesn't work as planned (like the health care plans) the only sure cure is more government, at the cost of a few more billion, which will add to the deficit. There isn't enough money in the world to pay for all of the government programs that Congress would like to shove down our collective throats.

Finally, the Detroit Free Press is helping the local Islamic community in its continuing attempt to lull Americans back to sleep and to return to accepting The Religion of Peace as a benign mode of worship, the same as Judaism and Christianity, but hijacked by a tiny minority of extremists.
Called "Meet your Muslim neighbor," open houses are to be held today at eight mosques in metro Detroit in an effort to help dispel stereotypes about Muslims. It's believed to be the first time that local mosques have coordinated together on a one-day event to educate non-Muslims about Islam.

"When people hear the word 'Islam,' they don't know what to think," said Rashid Taufiq, 57, of Rochester Hills, who is coordinating the open houses with the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan.

"They read about some terrorist activity in some other part of the world. They don't know what to make of a Muslim who might be a next door neighbor. ... A Muslim is no different from any other American in this country."
Other parts of the world, would that include New York City, Seattle Washington, Washington D.C.? Would it include the various terrorist plots that had been planned but broken up by various law enforcement agencies on American soil? How about vandalism in Chicago? Incitement in Ft. Lauderdale? The biggest joke within this event is that CAIR is involved.
The open houses happen to come after a controversial book, titled "Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That's Conspiring to Islamize America," was released this week. It alleges that a Muslim group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, supports extremism and terrorism.

Citing the book, four Republican U.S. representatives called on federal officials to investigate the group, which they said was trying to place interns in congressional committees and harm national security.

The book and the statements by the Republicans brought criticism from Democrats, including U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a Detroit Democrat.

In a statement Thursday, Conyers said that "patriotic Americans of all races, religions and beliefs have the right ... to participate in our political process."

In a statement, CAIR said it was troubling that "elected officials would serve as publicity agents for extremists who seek to bar an American minority from exercising its ... rights."
And the main "right", if I'm reading the news from the world of Islam correctly, would be the right for Islam to reign supreme.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Giving it Back to the UN

It it truly an insane world we live in when vicious dictatorial regimes like Pakistan, Libya, any member of the Arab League, and the UN Human Rights Commission sits in judgement of Israel, the one and only free, democratic, and moral nation in the Middle East. It fails to make a dent in most people's thoughts that the most unfree nations on Earth: Zimbabwe, The People's Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and former members of the UN Human Rights Commission, Algeria, Syria, Libya, and Vietnam, all countries with atrocious human rights records, condemn Israel on a regular basis for imaginary crimes. The one crime that they truly condemn Israel for is existing at all. Why they are taken seriously will always remain a mystery to me.

UN Watch keeps their eye on the corrupt UN and their even more corrupt, malignant Human Rights Commission.
In response to the twisted Goldstone Report, I'm reprinting the following from UN Watch:

GENEVA, October 16, 2009 -

The former commander of British forces in Afghanistan just finished addressing the U.N. special session on the Goldstone Report, speaking on behalf of UN Watch.

“Mr. President, based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare,” said. Col. Kemp.
Speech by Col. Kemp, as delivered today, Oct. 16, 2009

UN Watch Oral Statement
UN Human Rights Council, 12th Special Session
Geneva, 16 October 2009

Delivered by Col. Richard Kemp

Thank you, Mr. President.

I am the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan. I served with NATO and the United Nations; commanded troops in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Macedonia; and participated in the Gulf War. I spent considerable time in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and worked on international terrorism for the UK Government’s Joint Intelligence Committee.

Mr. President, based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population.

Hamas, like Hizballah, are expert at driving the media agenda. Both will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.

The IDF faces a challenge that we British do not have to face to the same extent. It is the automatic, Pavlovian presumption by many in the international media, and international human rights groups, that the IDF are in the wrong, that they are abusing human rights.

The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy’s hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.

Despite all of this, of course innocent civilians were killed. War is chaos and full of mistakes. There have been mistakes by the British, American and other forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, many of which can be put down to human error. But mistakes are not war crimes.

More than anything, the civilian casualties were a consequence of Hamas’ way of fighting. Hamas deliberately tried to sacrifice their own civilians.

Mr. President, Israel had no choice apart from defending its people, to stop Hamas from attacking them with rockets.

And I say this again: the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

Thank you, Mr. President.
Will it have any effect on the real thugs, torturers, and criminals at the UN? Probably not. But we must stand up to evil in any way we can, and sadly, the UN, originally conceived as a force to spread peace and freedom throughout the world, has been allowed to become a tool of evil.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Harry Opens His Mouth

Monday is staff meeting day. This past Monday, we had grade-level meetings. The fourth and fifth grade teachers met at one of the elementary schools to discuss curriculum; what's working and what's not working. It was a chance to sound off on the lameness of Everyday Math, and to discuss how the rudiments of this year's latest and greatest reading program, Lucy Calkin's Reading Workshop is going. Since most of us have only been trained on one minor portion of it, and others were awaiting more training, there wasn't much to discuss. But we did get to talk about the carpets each class received in order to help implement this new, latest and greatest reading method.

I usually don't say much because I hate meetings. I want to go home. And we've been through these discussions before, both formally and informally. Sometimes we meet by grade level as we did on Monday. Sometimes we meet by school. And sometimes we meet with all of the elementary schools in the whole district. One meeting, a few years ago, we were even encouraged to engage in "courageous conversations". They didn't go too far. Get too courageous and people get insulted. You know how that goes. But the subject came up as to how things could be improved in language arts, you know, reading, writing, spelling. Our students have been seriously lacking these skills for years. And things are only getting worse.

So in the spirit of - I'll offer the same suggestion that I've offered and had ignored for years - I brought up Riggs, the phonetic language arts method I teach. I wasn't alone this time though. There were three other teachers in the meeting who had also taught it and had gotten fabulous results. Two of them used it in first grade but weren't using it any more. The third is a special ed teacher. She's got cognitively impaired fourth and fifth grade students and she's been teaching them to read, you know, kind of one of the alleged reasons schools are exist in this country.

The teachers leading the meeting didn't know anything, so I had to explain the rationale, the process and the results. I told them of my class, my tutoring, and the fact that what I'm teaching my students should have been taught in kindergarten and first grade. This brought up the question, "how does that help us in fourth and fifth grade."

Speaking slowly, I explained that if students come to us with the knowledge base they need, and the skills that they are expected to have, we can teach what we're supposed to teach instead of year after year of remediation. And then, as I also pointed out, we can put an end to these meetings that we've been having regularly for the 20 years that I've been in the district where we get together to try and figure out how to increase student achievement, but only end up complaining about how deficient our students are and how difficult it is to push them forward. As an added bonus, we don't have to bring in a trainer. I'm right here.

There are teachers who want to be trained. We could get this started next school year after I train who ever wants to be trained over the summer. And while I wouldn't make as much as I usually make for a training (you bet I'm a capitalist!) there would be advantages to leading the training.

My colleagues who had used Riggs, backed me on all of claims. I was no longer the lone voice crying out in the wilderness. I now had companions. Now I'm only the semi-lone voice. I've also planted the idea in other minds in the district. These people are the lead teachers, the ones who get trained every few years in the new LATEST AND GREATEST teaching methods that are terrific and can't fail until the next LATEST AND GREATEST. Then they come back and try and shove it all down our throats. And yes I've gotten crabby about it even though I've been pushed into that position over the years in Social Studies, Science, and Math.

Do you know what else I've gotten crabby over? Chart paper. I hate meetings where we're divided into groups and placed at tables with other random teachers and each table is given a piece of chart paper. We are then expected it to fill it with ideas, suggestions, concepts, or any other stupid thing to be stuck on the walls so that the leader (or leaders) of the meeting can call up a volunteer from each table to read off all of the garbage on that table's chart paper for hours of useless blather.

At a Riggs workshop, no chart paper is allowed in the room. We have no use for it. The object of a Riggs workshop is to teach teachers to teach Riggs. There is an important body of knowledge for teachers to learn in order to pass on to their students. There are also the methods for passing on this knowledge. And it doesn't depend on busy work with chart paper.

But like I was saying, this could be a small step in the right direction.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama's Nobel Prize and Islam

First of all, there have been worse choices for the Nobel Peace Prize. A certain keffiyeh-sporting Palestinian terrorist comes to mind. And then there's Jimmy Carter. And no, I'm not comparing Obama to Yassir Arafat. I'm paying him a (very) back-handed compliment. I actually wasn't going to comment at all. But then I read this article in the Detroit Free Press, and I couldn't keep my keyboard quiet. In fact, I wanted to start screaming at my newspaper.
Muslims around metro Detroit who have witnessed President Barack Obama's outreach efforts applauded the announcement of his Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.
I believe what Obama is doing with the Muslim world is pandering. I'm sure it's insane and it will bring no good to our country. Remember, Bush too, stupidly reached out to the Muslim world. And what did he get in return? The same thing Obama will get, complaints that he isn't doing enough to pander to - uh - I mean reach out to Muslims.

"Obama has made a point to reach out to the Muslim world," said Tarek Baydoun, 25, of Dearborn. "It serves America to have someone so in touch with the faith of over a billion people around the world."

One of the reasons given by the Nobel committee for awarding Obama was his overtures to the Muslim world -- an effort repeatedly seen this year in metro Detroit.

Several department heads in the Obama administration have met with Muslims and Arab Americans in Dearborn, most recently U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, who spoke Wednesday at the Lebanese American Heritage Club in Dearborn.

And last month, CIA Director Leon Panetta met with Muslims and Arab Americans in Dearborn for a Ramadan dinner. Panetta and Locke said in their talks that Muslims and Arab Americans are vital parts of the United States.

The outreach to Dearborn is part of an effort by Obama that he laid out in a speech he gave to Muslims in June in Cairo, Egypt, in which he called for a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims."

The Commerce Department cited that speech in explaining why Locke visited Dearborn this week.
And what kind of new beginning can we expect? One where Muslims give us the same respect that they expect to receive from us infidels? Don't count on it. Will there be fewer terrorist plots? Fewer demands that we abandon Israel to the tender mercies of the surrounding terrorists states to prove that Obama really wants to force the United States to submit to the status of dhimmi? Sorry, Barack. Some of us will not submit.

"The outreach to the Muslim world was long warranted," said Victor Begg of Bloomfield Hills, who attended the Dearborn dinner with Panetta and heads the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan.
See? Mr. Begg has forgotten all about Bush, the previous panderer-in-chief. Since only power and brute force are respected in the Muslim world, Bush, who in the American tradition of consensual government, stepped down from the presidency when his term was up, is of concern to the Muslim world no longer. There is a new dhimmi in town, and his name is Obama.

Richard Nodel, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit, said Friday in a statement that he was pleased that Obama said in his remarks after winning the prize that he has an "unwavering commitment ... to the rights of all Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security in nations of their own."
I have one question for Richard Nodel: Are you stupid?

What is it with these Jews who still worship Obama? They don't seem to understand that Israelis and Palestinians have had numerous chances to live in peace and security, but the Palestinians refuse to implement that peace. Haven't they noticed that whenever peace gets too near, they begin an intifada? Or an all out war? Palestinians have been refusing to live in peace with Jews since the 1920s. Will Richard Nodel join Obama in his condemnation of Israelis building homes for Jews in Israel's capital city, Jerusalem, while at the same time ignoring or excusing the violence perpetrated by the Palestinians? If so, he won't be the first Jew to do so.

So maybe what it comes down to is that: Bush didn't get it. Obama doesn't get it. 78% of the Jewish community doesn't get it. The Muslim community gets it. And we will get it in the end . . . from the Muslim community.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Millennium Park

Whenever we go to Chicago, we always take an afternoon to stroll Millennium Park. It really is a delight for the senses with all of its attractions. The coolest part is the sculpture commonly known as "the Bean", even though it's real name is Cloud Gate. I, along with every other idiot tourist who visits Chicago, can spend hours getting lost in the reflections of and taking pictures of Cloud Gate. And then there are the fountains, the gardens, the concert pavilion, and the other nearby attractions, like the Art Institute of Chicago, the Adler Planetarium, and too many other distractions to link.

We were at The Bean one night, watching a Chicago native flash a flashlight around the underside of The Bean leading to many interesting light effects. We began talking and mentioned how much we enjoyed Millennium Park. In return, he mentioned how much he, and other Chicagoans hated it. And here's why.

It seems that the entire projected cost of the park, $110,000,000, was paid by private donors. The only problem was, there were cost overruns. (What? Cost overruns in a government building project? Scandalous!) The final cost of the park was (are you ready for this? I don't think the people of Chicago were) $500,000,000. So who paid for the difference? Silly question. Chicago is full of taxpayers to be bled. According to my new Chicago friend, the taxes on his modest Chicago home tripled due to the construction of Millennium Park.

OK, under those circumstances, I wouldn't have much affection for the park either. Since the park is free to the public, it does not make any money. So, while we tourists marvel at The Bean, and wade through the fountain, and take pictures in the gardens, and lay on the grass of the concert pavilion, the citizens of Chicago have to fork over the money for the upkeep of all of these delightful tourist attractions.

So property taxes went up. They also have a huge (9%, I believe) sales tax in Chicago. That makes Chicago a very expensive place to live.

I still enjoy the park when we visit, but I try not to buy much when I'm in the city because of the insanely high tax rate. I did pick up a few things at the Jazz Record Mart though. It had been too many years.

I couldn't even imagine living in Chicago, at least not on my salary. For ordinary tourists though, Millennium Park is not to be missed.

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Yes, blog posts have been extremely sparse here on Garbanzo Toons. And I've not spent much time visiting other blogs either. But somehow, no matter how busy I get, and how much I neglect my miniscule portion of the blogosphere, I always have time to leap into arguments with ignorant, deluded Israel bashers. For my latest, go to the comment section of this post at Conservative Outrage, where once again, I battle Elizabeth.

Ho hum.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Alexander Hamilton

Yes, I'm falling way behind in my blogging. If I had time, I'd talk about it, but I'd rather talk about Forrest McDonald's biography of Alexander Hamilton. I read and finished it after Gibbon. That was a few weeks ago.

McDonald's Hamilton is not one of the current oversized monster bios that covers every detail of the subject's life from the birth of their grandparents to the deaths of their grandchildren - although I do own and have read some of those. This one is manageable. It covers the important aspects of Hamilton's life, his development, and his important (and I mean really important) contributions to the creation and evolution of our country.

As a child, the only thing I learned about Hamilton was that he was killed in a duel by Aaron Burr. They'd been on opposite sides of the political aisle for years. Since this happened after Hamilton made his contributions and was basically retired, McDonald only gives a few pages to this most unfortunate episode in American history.

The fascinating aspect of this book, besides learning all about Hamilton, and a bit about economics, was discovering how human our founding fathers were. Some were completely corrupt. And covetous. Hoo boy, they were covetous. And some of them were schemers who worked for their own interests and against the country's interests. Hamilton's genius (if I understand correctly) was in finding ways to make this corruption work for the country. This goes along with our political system that, in theory, divides power between three branches of government so that no one branch has too much power.

Hamilton wanted the to change American society from one of gentleman farmers to one of economic vitality and hard work. He made a lot of enemies along the way. Some of our founding fathers loathed Hamilton, and there were various alliances and battles between various factions political factions. Hamilton's main political enemies were James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Fortunately for the nation (if I understood all of the economics correctly, which - uh - well . . . ) it was Hamilton who had G. Washington's ear when he was president, and not Madison and Jefferson.

By the end of Washington's second term as president, McDonald describes him as haggard and worn out. Jefferson comes off worse according to McDonald's telling, but not as bad as he is repeatedly described by James McCullough in his John Adams biography. But then, McDonald, in his book refers to the "pompous and porcine Adams." While 200 years will do wonders for a person's reputation, it is always good to remember that no matter how we lionize these men, they were human. Yes, they created a county that has served as a beacon of freedom for millions. No, it's not perfect, and it never will be. But it is still the one that people yearning to breath free risk their lives to reach.

At least for now.

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