Sunday, December 30, 2007

Two Sides of Secularism

The goal of a secular government is for people to check their religious beliefs at the door of the legislature. In the legislature they would discuss the limits that the government needs to set to maintain civil order.

People would define and pursue their ideals in their religion (and or philosophy of life).

The result of this classical liberal form of secularism was an increasingly tolerant society.

Radicalized secularism is a different beast. This starts when group of people decide to start forming their belief systems around secularism or science (a prime example is Marx's Material Dialectic which claimed to be a science). By claiming secularism as a tenet of their belief system, the adherents to this new irreligious-religion would take the stance that, since they hold secularism as a tenet of their beliefs, that they were excused from the need to check one's beliefs at the door of the legislature.

The ironical thing is that the people who take the paradoxical view of radical secularism is that they end up becoming less tolerant than the religions they despise, and end up trying to dictate their ideals and often become totalitarian in their actions.

I think secularism works best is a society where people recognize that they have a relgion. We all have ideals that we use on a personal level to guide our lives. Many of these ideals should be checked at the doorsteps of the Legislature so that we can create a workable society.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Religion Test

I like that Romney gave a speech on religion in America, and I liked the overall direction of the speech which seemed to support the classical liberal view of secularism.

Unfortunately he made several statements that dramatically detracted from the speech. The most powerful part of the speech was the statement "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom."

Unfortunately, the powerful statement is clearly a fallacy. History is full of totalitarian states that used religion to cement in the fealty of the people. He probably made the slip simply because he was not taught logic in school. These days, no-one is taught logic; so we've come to expect such fallacies.

I suspect that Romney was trying to make an argument similar to the argument that you can't separate faith and reason. Science is built on a belief that there are discernible physical laws. Faith is meaningless unless you have some sort of logical method to act upon faith.

You can argue that there is a dependency between faith and reason. Freedom and religion go well together, but aren't dependent on each other.

It is possible that Romney was referring to the Mormon doctrine of "free agency." Free Agency is something different from the common usage of freedom. If he was using a definition of freedom that is specific to his Church, then he blundered by not explaining to us that he was using a stipulated definition.

Either way, including a statement that most people would see as a logical fallacy in a major speech shows a disturbing lack of judgment.

The public schools may not teach logic, but we still get upset when our leaders make blatant logical fallacies in major addresses.

The biggest gafaw was to put the statement "A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith" in a speech about the importance of faith.

I agree that a candidate should not be seen as a spokesman for their faith. Nor should they be judged for all of the silliness of a church's theology. The public should grill a candidate on any belief that might affect a candidates decision making process.

We can find a good example of a religious tenet making a member of the faith a bad presidential candidate in a religion called the Hutterites. The Hutterites are fanatically against the use of violence. They are so thoroughly opposed to violence that they conscientiously object to serving in the military.

The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief of the United State's military. Even though I respect the non-violence convictions of the Hutterites, I would probably reject a candidate whose religion would prevent him from serving in the military that he must lead.

The vast majority of theological disputes should be checked at the door steps of the Capitol. However, any tenets that affect the functioning of a candidates fulfilling of their position should be up for debate.

Religion shouldn't be a test. However, we are wise to discuss how faith affects the decision making process.

If faith matters; then people should reject a candidate when they have substantive objections to how the candidate's faith would affect their performance in office.

A Long Post on Mitt Romney's Religion in America

Earlier this week Benazir Bhutto, a champion for democracy and freedom, was assassinated by some religious kook. Several weeks ago, there was an equally horrendous attack on Ms. Bhutto that killed 140 people. This assasation was not a lone gunman, but a concerted attempt to stifle the dream of democracy in the Middle East.

These political/religious motivated killings going on in the Middle East are horrific.

On a more civil tone, one of the highlights of the American primary election was Governor Mitt Romney's Faith in America speech delivered earlier this month.

The relation of government and religion is the central issue of our age. If we cannot find a way for religions to live in tolerance, we will see a nuclear war.

Unfortunately, the political class seems to have taken to the idea that the way to fight religious extremism irreligion. The political elite seem set on forcing scientific socialism (a world ruled by pure reason) on the world.

I find this approach foolhardy. I believe strongly that the founders of the United States were on a much better path.

With the exception of Thomas Paine, few of the American founders were dreaming of an age ruled by perfect reason with no religion. I believe that the founders of this nation were of a more pragmatic sort. They envisioned a structure where people continued to encapsulate their imperfect understanding of the universe in religion. They would meet, however, in civil discourse in elected assemblies to create a small government that provided the basic necessities of governance.

I founders' ideal of secularism could best be described as one with limited government and where the people were free to develop and pursue their beliefs. The classical liberalism of the founders respected private religious expression but demanded public tolerance.

This classical liberal view of secularism is in sharp contrast with modern secular progressivism that seeks an unlimited government with extremely tight constraints on the thoughts of the individual.

Unfortunately, this model given to us by the founders is not the most stable of social orders. It falls apart when government gets too large, or when a sufficiently large number of people adhere to a religion (or belief system) that demands political domination.

The greatest fear of Pioneer Americans seems to be that the top down hierarchical Catholic Church would find a way to dominated a nation full of small protestant sects.

To early Americans, the domineering papacy was the great Satan.

John F. Kennedy experience was important as his election seemed to be recognition that American Catholics were American first. Like Protestant, Catholics were committed to a limited secular government.

JFK's speech can be seen as a height of secularism. In the early sixties, the United States had become a much more tolerant nation.

Unfortunately, it is not in human nature to let good things stand.

While Americans were achieving the classical liberal ideal of secularism, a new insideous ideology was forming in the wings. This new ideology is often refered to as "secular progressivism."

Secular progressivism arose as the result of two political trends. The first is the very human tendency to push any good idea to an extreme. If a little secularism is good, then a lot of secularism must be great.

If the idea that people should leave their religious pontifications at the step of the Capitol is a good idea, then ridding ourselfs of all religious sentiment must be great.

The second force behind progressive secularism is the hope of the left to transform the United States into a socialist state. While it is possible for a small limited government to allow free epression of religion, a socialist state must find a way to either incorporate a religion or stifle all religion.

Most attempts at socialism involve elevating the state to a religion or by adhering to a relgion that demands domination of the popel.

The classical liberal ideal of secularism was premised on a small government with a restricted scope. The secular progressive envision a state with unlimited power and extremely little freedom of expression.

To progress our nation from a free market to socialism, the progressive has to find a way to neutralize all religious sentiment. The obvious path to acheiving the goal of socialism in the 1960s was to form an alliance with those wanting to advance secularism to the next level and socialism.

The result is alliance is a paradoxical belief that is well described as "secular progressivism." Secular Progressivism does its dirty work by trying to make irreligion the religion of the state.

The idea is paradoxical from the start. We are told to imagine a world without religion; However, this act of imagining a utopia is itself a religious act. The ideology of a world without religion is precisely the type of ideology the American founders wanted people to check at the door before discussing government policy.

Irreligion is a religion. We can find an analogy in mathematics. Negating a number does not make a number disappear. Multiplying 3 by -1 does not make the number go away. Negating three makes minus-three. Attempts to negate religion simply creates a religion of irreligion.

The religion of irreligion is inherently irrational. It tends to have even worse results than religions that recognize themselves as religion. People who've deluded themselves into thinking they have achieved a transcendent state by adopting nihilism as their religion tend to become intolerant in their beliefs and actions.

While the classical liberal secularism attempted to create a platform of tolerance where people of different faiths could engage in civil discourse to create a government, the secular progressives have created an irrational belief system that ends with absolute intolerance to those not holding to the group think of irreligion.

Anyway, Mitt Romney was speaking to a completely different world than JFK. In our brave new world order, the left sports a secularism has been radicalized.

As with all radical movements. Radicalized secularism has spawned a reactionary movement. Reactionary movements can be as dangerous as radical movements. This reactionary movement appears to have created a new type of rightwing-mega-church that seems intent on legislating-morality.

The culture war has become a shrill tirade of groups seeking total domination.

The culture war isn't just an American phenomenon. Worldwide, the reaction to secular progressivism has reached epic proportions in the Islamic world. The Islamic world sees the marginalization of Christianity in the West. The Islamic response has been to breeding a particularly insipid reactionary ideology often referred to as radical Islam. The adherents of Radical Islam are willing to kill large numbers of people in a march to domination.

Islamic Radicals have essentially declared a war of extermination against the West.

In our post 9/11 world, the West is in the position of Missouri Governor Boggs. In 1838, the LDS Prophet Sidney Rigdon declared an extermination war on the gentiles of Missouri. Governor Boggs reacted to the extermination war by his infamous extermination order.

In the very heart of America, an elected official of the people ordered the genocide of his political opponents.

The act of an American state issuing an extermination order for a group of citizens was clearly one of the lowest points in this nation's history.

Fortunately cooler heads prevailed. The Mormons left Missouri and migrated to Navou, Illinois where people were anxious to demonstrate the power of tolerance.

This experience is relevant to the middle east. The world needs to find a way to create a structure where different beliefs are tolerated.

Secular progressivism can't do it. The very beating heart of modern progressivism is intolerance. The Islamic world recognizes secular progressivism as nihilistic.

To avoid a war of extermination, we must find a way to confront radical Islam in a way that maintains a positive role for the religious sentiments of the Islamic world.

In this regard, I think Romney's speech was very important. There simply must be a way for people to have different beliefs while having the opportunity to engage in world discourse.

As Mitt Romney approached the podium at the George HW Bush Library, he needed to give a JFK style speech to mitigate fears of his Mormonism while assuaging the sentiments of the reactionaries to secular progressivism.

Romney took a very interesting tact by skirting any discussion of how Mormonism might affect the decision making process. Instead his speech concentrated on differentiating the classical liberal ideal of secularism to the totalitarian visions of radical Islam.

In many ways it is fortuitous that one of the leading candidates for the Republican presidency belongs to an extraordinarily quirky religion.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Run the Republic

I want to do this.

Salt Lake should get busy and build a big building so that Salt Lakers could do the same thing every year.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Risk as Part of the Product

Ann Torrence left a interesting comment on my last post about a thing called the New Zealand's Accident Compensation Scheme.

The ACC pretty much picks up the tab for anyone hurt in an extreme sports accident. The result is that the extreme sport industry is huge in New Zealand.

I am not familiar with the ACC or how it is funded. Instead I want to contrast models where you externalize liabilities verses those that internalizes liability.

Before making my reply, I have to make an embarrassing public confession:

Well…as you see …deep down inside … I am a wuss.

I am a wuss in a weird way. I really am not scared of falling off a cliff and dying. I simply can't stand the idea of falling off a cliff and failing to die. When I am trying to make some gnarly move on a rock face, I don't think of the pain that would happen when I slip. The thing that drives me to distraction is that idea that I would end up being a burden on everyone. It is the idea of my actions harming others that really hurts.

The other thing that gets me is that I hate the idea that someone's life depends on a knot that I tied. Packing a parachute looms worse in my mind than jumping out of a plane. Doing an overhanging rappel is a blast. My nightmares are about setting the protection and the possibility of the bolt giving away on the next climber.

(This site shows my last climbing partner)

My inner wussness doesn't really come from a fear of bad things happening to me, but a fear that I might do great harm to others.

Being a wuss should disqualify me from talking about extreme sports, but here goes.

My deep moral conviction is that people should bear the brunt of the risks they take. As such, I prefer the business model where companies internalize risks to those that externalize risks.

To make this point lets look at a Bungee Jumping firm. Let's say the basic materials for doing a bungee jump cost $7 a jump, and the bungee jumping firm takes $3 in profit. So they charge $10.

Let's say that the cord snaps in 1 of every 200,000 jumps. When the cord snaps, the jumper gets splattered. Let's also say that 1 in every 100,000 jumps the cord frays and the jumper is scrunched.

The case of the bungee cord snapping isn't a big deal. When the jumper gets splattered, the bungee jumping company would need to fork out five grand for the funeral. The bungee company firm could probably pay for a funeral or two from petty cash. The funeral probably costs less than a new bungee cord.

The real scary risk for the bungee jumping firm is the 1 in every 100,000 jumps where the cord frays and the jumper get scrunched. A scrunched bungee jumper is going to cost a good $600,000 in medical expenses. This expense falls outside what a typical bungee jumping firm could handle. The bungee company firm would want a policy with a $10k deductible, and would need insurance for the scrunched bungee jumpers.

So, in our model, 1 in a 100,000 bungee jumpers result in a $600,000 expense. So, the liability is about $6 per jump. The insurance company is full of greedy people who want to make an outrageous profit on this misery; so they charge $8 per jump for the insurance.

The bungee jumping firm only makes $3 a jump in profit. They can't pay the $8 out of their $3 in profit and have to raise prices. It turns out that they are greedy too. Instead of raising the price $8, they decide to raise it by $10.

It seems counter intuitive; yet the model where businesses internalize risks and pay for the damages they do can increase profits.

The model where you make risk part of the product increases profits. Since the consumer sees the full cost of the product plus risk, they are likely to make better consumer choices. If the prices reflected risk, then the prices could help a sports adventurist decide between doing the BASE jump or the swim in shark infested waters.

The best part of this model is that a group that when a group that control a risk internalize the risk, they can take steps to make things safer. Our bungee jumping firm might find that it can reduce risk by occasionally replacing the cord.

Another cool thing about the economy where companies internalize risks is that it puts consumers in a better position to make their consumer choices. An adventure traveler has only a fixed amount of time and limited resources.

The higher prices might price some people out of the adventure travel market. My inner wuss tells me that this may not be all that bad. When prices accurately reflect risk, then you reduce the number of people who get scrunched by the risks.

The down side of internalizing risks is that it takes a lot of work and monitoring. Efforts to internalize risks can open the door to fraud. The system also transfer a great deal of wealth and power to the middle agents that cover the risk. The system where a third party owns the risk transfers control over a person that might best be left in the hands of the individual.

I admit, I've yet to figure out if internalizing or externalizing risk is better for society. A free market would tend to transfer control over risk to the agent best able to control the risk. In an employment arrangement or bungee jumping, the company is in the position to control risk. In rock climbing and skydiving, the individual has more control over the risk. The ideal solution is not to saddle part of the economy with all the risk. The ideal solution would demand that people know the costs of risks involved in activities and have the risks covered.

BTW, I think the real difference between the ACC is not so much that the government owns adventure sports related risks, but that their system limits personal injury lawsuits.

In the American system, bastard trial lawyers take shove their hands in the process and take the lions share of the money that we've set aside to tend to the injured. In the US it takes a million dollars to provide $500k once a court gets involved.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Workers Comp

I think it is foolish to put a bureaucracy between people and their primary health care provider. Health is about the well being of a person. Personal well being is best handled through direct person to person contact. No matter how you cut it, the bureaucrat in the middle detracts from that realtion and detracts from health.

That said, I don't think all insurance is a rip.

Areas where insurance works great are Workers' Comp, General Liability, Auto Insurance and Catastrophic Insurance.

In workers' compensation, employers are paying directly for liability exposures created at the job site. Workers' Compensation is great for the economy as it allows risks created by an activity to be correctly reflected on the balance sheets. As workers's comp is an expense of the employer and not the employee, having a third party in the mix actually makes the payment of the claim easier. Actuarial analysis of workers comp claims provide a strong basis for risk management. That is managers are able to take the claims experience of their company and similar companies and use that data as a basis for Risk Management and risk reduction.

General liability and auto insurance work in the same way. In both cases you are buying coverage for an identifiable entity that has associated risks.

This style of insurance that tacks a liability onto a entity or action work great as it allow people to judge the risks associated with the entity. The only serious problems come with fraud. For example, I've seen cases where a person broke their back on Saturday. They sit around writhing in pain over the weekend then have someone drag them to work on Monday to get workers' comp.

Liability insurance works extremely well.

Interestingly, socializing medicine would actually have a harmful effect on employees. Sadly, many employers are scum. Employers want to move costs from their balance sheets. If we had a system of socialized medicine, employers would try to divert their liability exposure to the public at large.

Liability insurance forces companies into better risk management practices which reduce exposures of their employees and customers. Socialized systems where the government pays for healthcare reduce this liability.

This is actually one of the prime reasons why working conditions in left leaning countries are generally worse than those in free societies.

Catastrophic insurance is an other area where insurance works. I will address this in a later post.

Anyway, I think one of our problems is that that political mind wants a one size fits all approach to health care. Insurance works extremely well in certain areas; so politicians knee jerk and say that it should be applied to all health care concerns.

I believe that, by expandiong insurance beyond what it does well, you actually create a worse situation for people. Sticking an insurance agent between a person and their primary care provider detracts from that care, and it detracts from the ability to accurately assign liability risks to exposure.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Right Direction for Health Care

The debate about health care seems to follow a common pattern: The debate starts with people complaining about something. When the complaints hit a shrill pitch, a progressive steps in and says the answer is a new government program and greater centralization of the health care system.

To get the debate turned around, we need to start the debate by talking about positive trends in health care. If people talked about the positive trends, the public at large would end up favoring less centralization and greater control over their personal health.

My contention is that the best way to handle health care is to get the insurance companies and government out of picture and to let people have direct personal relations with their health care providers. By making a direct contract with the health care professional, the person needing health care will receive better, more personalized service.

One of the most interesting examples of direct personal relations with health care providers is a new trend in the birthing process called the Doula. A doula is a person who works with expectant moms through the pregnancy, birth and post partem process. A doula is not a midwife. A doula might best be described as a lay person who provides support for the mom. The doula is concerned with what the mom is eating, how she feels and is available for the very necessary hand holding that needs to take place in the process.

A doula is a trained professional. Hiring a doula has proven has direct benefits. For example the use of doulas in the birthing process has been shown to decrease the need for cesarian sections by half and to decrease the need for forceps in birth, etc..

Here are links to doulas and related services in Salt Lake and Denver.

Because doula services depend on a more personal connection between the caregiver and patient, they tend to be small businesses and sole proprietorships. As with other small business, doula services tend to have extra offerings to help make ends meet. Michelle Scharf of Kaysville provides an interesting examples of the directions a person might take their doula business. Michelle adds massage therapy and birth photography to her bag of tricks.

The primary offering of doula services is time. Hence, the cost of services is generally the cost of labor with some additional training. Nicole of Denver is a newly trained doula and is currently offering discounted services as she works to extablish a reputation.

We tend to think of health care providers as things that come from another planet. The grandiose health care schemes of Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton and the like are all premised on the idea that health care is some sort of limited resource that must be rationed.

The super dynamic doula industry shows the real nature of health care. Health care is about people serving the needs of other people in the community. In the doula industry we see caregivers entering and dropping back to other professions as supply and demand waxes and wanes.

Health care is the quintessential local business. 90% of quality health care is time and effort. The doula sits there with the mom helping her make the decisions, prepare for birth and to deal with the new infant and post partem depression. This is a lot of very valuable work. The work, however, comes from the community served. In a free society, that money stays in the community. The costs of the doula services simply reflect prevailing wages. So, its not like there will be a community that can't afford the services.

NOTE, in both socialized medicine and employer based insurance, the money leaves the community, goes to the center of power, then trickles back into the community. Only some 60% of the resources spent on such schemes managed to make it back into the community.

Birthing services, by the way, are one of the greatest failures of the insurance industry. Insurance companies are prone to treat pregnancy as a pre-existing service and deny claims to new policy holders. On the reverse side, juries are known to reward outrageous sums to people who lose children at birth. So, the insurance agencies wham doctors with malpractice premiums that triple the cost of care.

The insurance industry reams expectant moms in two directions by systematically denying claims and pushing up costs to the point that basic care causes extreme financial duress for new families when their claims are denied.

The doula industry is shows how health care should work. People from the community freely work with people in the community to provide care. This stands in stark contrast to the bastardized health care that gets provided when government, politicians, lawyers, insurance companies and other bureaucrats get involved.

Monday, December 03, 2007

I am Number 1

Technorati says my blog has authority 1. In traditional counting systems, you can't get any better than one.

Well, most mathematicians these days like to start counting at 0. So, there is a possibility that there is a technorati score higher than 1. When I was in school, mathematicians called the set {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, ...} the natural numbers and the set {0, 1, 2, 3, ...} the Whole Numbers. They called the set {... -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, ...} the integers. In that system, the Whole Numbers were a group and the natural numbers not. I understand that they now use Natural Numbers for {0, 1, 2, 3, ...}. I find that sad as there is now no good way to talk about the important difference between sets that include the zero and don't include the zero.

I got my high technorati rating by shooting off my mouth in favor of vouchers. I never did post the primary reason for supporting vouchers. The people who really need choice in school are the people who are not doing well in the current schools. There is a large percentage of people who really feel trapped in their current situation. They are the ones that need a way out. The people who do well in public schools will stay in public schools.

The next big issue in the war for social progress is health care. I think I will spend much of the year blathering about how insurance companies are the problem, and that all of the utopian plans to force everyone into insurance or into a nationalized insurance system is the wrong direction. Blathering about that issue is guaranteed to keep my site at authority one for the year.

Anyway, I am still working on restoring the photo site. One of my backup sets was corrupted. The medium on my CDs deteriorated with age. Now, I had three CDs with the pictures; so I am trying to reassemble the beasties. Anyway, I knew my host would die soon. I just didn't think that anyone would be as rude as to just turn off the machine and deny access to the data.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Disappearing Photos

If you were wondering. The fly-by-night web host that I had been using for finally flew by night.

I was hoping that the site would stay live for another two months so I could charge the new web hosting fee to next year. It is strange, but every time I make a decision for tax reasons, my decision comes back and bites me. The crappy thing is that the host flew by night right before I did my monthly full data backup; so I lose a month of updates.

The company was actually an okay host back in 2000 when I started using them. They were up for 7 years. As I understand, the founder of the company kicked the bucket, and there was, how shall I put this, a deterioration in the quality of the owners.

Anyway, my original plan was to do a prototype on a discount domain. If what I found an a path to success, I would have moved to a dedicated server (that's about a $100 per month expense) and pounded out the site in Java. I didn't get any success nibbles.

Even worse, because I was stupid idiot and spoke favoring vouchers, I had the few inbound links to my sites removed. So, rather than get a new account for protophoto; So, rather than sinking the cash into a new hosting plan. I decide to do the cheesy thing. I decided to piggyback protophoto onto the account I set up for this blog. If you pinged and you would find they are both on ip address:

This account is with Blue Host. I am not sure if BlueHost existed when I started doing these community directories.

Oh well.

Anyway, since I can't access the old account. I am trying to rebuild from backups. Many of the pictures and thumbnails are broken. I am also trying to make the site DHTML compliant. I have now idea why I am doing that. Some of the pages look really crappy at the moment.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Self Fulfilling Prophecies

This just in ...

... A man, thinking that the secret service was out to get him, went into Hillary Clinton's campaign headquarters claiming to have a bomb and taking hostages.

The secret service went in and got him.

The self-fulfilling prophecy is a very interesting example of the reflexive paradox and a good example of people arriving at the right conclusion for the wrong reason.

In all likelihood, it was the action of taking hostages that caused the secret service to go in and get him and not the pre-existing notions that made him think the SS was after him.

In other news, apparently a large number of people (especially those in the liberal media) appear to be of the mind that there will be a major devaluing of US currency and a deep recession in 2008. Such folks might, en masse, convert their currency from dollars to dinars, and disengage in local economic activity; thus causing the recession they fear.

Trying to figure out how to keep our society from destroying itself by our own schizophrenic way of thinking is a challenge. Imbalances in our economy might make self-fulfilling prophecies come true. On the whole, far too much money in the United States is invested in realty. Left leaning countries of the world might engage in George Soros's hobby of devaluing currencies and cause a monetary crisis in the United States by dumping dollars.

IMHO, preoccupation with the reflexive paradox is a hallmark of modern thinking. The central theme of modern thinking is that the psychological state of mind creates our reality.

I am a regressive thinker who holds that our actions are the primary cause of our reality. All of the the imbalances of the economic world can and will be exploited by wanks like George Sorros. The goal is to position ourselves so that we are not caught and destroyed by the sway of public opinion.

The US has a few nasty exposures that could turn around and cause a great deal of hardship in the upcoming decades: Most Americans depend on the government for their retirement, their education and healthcare (that is a nasty imbalance). Since we depend on the government for most necessities of our lives, few Americans these days directly own wealth producing assets (that is another nasty exposure). That government is leveraged to the hilt.

On the home front, Americans have far too much of their equity invested in their homes. Current mortgage and housing price woes have a lot of Americans in a financial bind. Those that have chosen to walk away from their loans have put our financial institutions in a bind.

It is possible that we will have a deep recession in 2008. The effect of social security and medicare is a society with an unbalanced portfolio with our futures dependent on the health of a single financial institution ... the Federal government. Our imbalanced investment portfolios that gave the manufacturing sector to China while we contented ourselves with flipping houses also created an imbalance.

It may be possible for the left to engineer a recession in 2008. I think the root cause of the recession is the imbalances caused by our progressive politics and not our thoughts.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Running Out of Things to Say

Yahoo Reports that, due to the screenwriters guild strike, the Democratic Party will be forced to cancel their next debate.

The timing of the strike is horrible. Here we are in the last weeks before the primary begins and the candidates need new material with pertinent references to current events to complete the characters they've crafted.

Let's hope the screenwriters' guild resolves this strike before the general election; otherwise, we could end up with a really boring election season with the Republicans pontificating off the cuff while the Democrats pace back and forth waiting for new scripts to respond.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Site of the Day

Wow, my blog was just named Salt Lake Site of the Day for December 12, 2007. Can you believe it? I must know somebody.

The SoD program was not intended to be an award. Here is the evolution of the idea.

Salt Lake Sites was intended to be an all inclusive directory. No matter how bad the site; I will list it if it is from or about the Salt Lake Valley.

The directory lists over 5000 sites. I wanted a way to point out some of the better designs. I also wanted to figure out a way to get people to realize the diversity of the local web.

The other idea in my brain at the time was that I wanted changing content on the front page. I decided to do a site of the day program so that something new would show up on the front page every day.

This changing content idea proved problematic for Google. Google would cache the page and put it in the index. Since the front page was changing every day, the data Google had about my site's front page was always wrong.

This was problematic; So, I pulled the SoD program from the front page and left the reviews on stand alone pages.

In choosing the SoDs, I was trying to concentrate on design and not content. For that reason, only a few blogs are SoDs. A blogger uses a design from a third party. Also bloggers tend to link to each other. The SoD program gives a bias to artists, musicians, environmental and social organizations. These organizations are often link starved. Not to burst bubbles, but your typical non-profit social organization does more for the community than your typical blogger.

I occasionally throw in an advertiser. Actually I do so because I think some of the Advertisers are doing SoD worthy things. Of course, being a capitalist, I put the advertisers in Q4. I figure that if I am morally compromised; I should be morally compromised effectively.

Having created a SoD program, I was trying to figure out a way to monetize the calendar. I had tried putting affiliate ads on the calendar, but that didn't get a sale for some 300,000 page views; So, I decide to make a Store of the Day program. The Store of the day is pure commercialism. My thought was that all of the calendar events would have a link to the store of the day. When you add a calendar event, the event page would have a link to your event and one to the store of the day.

The store of the day is a money making ad, pure and simple.

he, he, he. I am so evil.

Actually the design lets me show local stuff with a minimal intrusion. I am trying to find ways to have ads that is less intrusive.

I think that the site of the day program does give extra exposure to the quality sites in the directory. The reviews have been viewed some 200,000 times.

Being a Site of the Day gets you about an extra 50 links a year.

If a web designer was smart, they would link to their SoD. Just like I am linking to my SoD in this post. Boy, I wonder what I did to deserve being called Site of the Day?

The rules for the Site of the Day is that a site can only be a SoD one day a year. I recycle the sites each year.

I thought about trying to make the SoD a wiki type thing where the public at large selects the site and writes the review. If you think something should be a SoD, you can drop me a note.

I just made a report that shows all of the SoDs. I do this silliness for Salt Lake (all SoDs), Provo (all SoDs), Moab (all SoDs), Park City (all SoDs) and Denver (all SoDs).

So, For all of you who you think all I do nothing but complain about Utah. Well, the truth is that I spent 95% of my time praising Utah, then grumble on this blog as a counter balance.

BTW: I don't put a lot of links on this blog, because I went link silly with the directories.

Black Friday Sales

Sorry, about those last posts. I let my inner progressive out to play. My inner progressive can get ugly at times. In school, I thought I would have a great future as a progressive thinker. I knew more paradoxes than all of the other progressives I know. But, of course, I knew that they were paradoxes. The people who are good at the game delude themselves into thinking that they are actually engaged in critical thinking when they recite paradox.

Anyway, I was letting my inner progressive play this morning as I was waiting to count my Black Friday Earnings. Counting money is what us capitalistic minded people do best.

Anyway on Black Friday my web empire had two sales and made $7.90.

Last Black Friday I had zero sales. Because I supported vouchers, almost every inbound link to the site was yanked and traffic fell 40%; So, I was worried that the sales would be zilch. But greediness and hatred prevailed and I had sales.

I had switched the site to West Host of Logan and only have to pay $6.95 a month. So, my capitalistic enterprise was able to cover hosting costs for the month on a single day.

Big Arm BayThe way that the site works is rather mischievious. My photo site has links into the community directories, and the community directories have links back to the photo site. (BTW, I just added a section of pictures Flathead Lake. I posted these with a leading edge of 1024px). I also have this blog and a really silly page called A Fountain of Bargains that has nothing but ads.

In other words, I basically am making a link farm that I am trying to pass off with a pathetic claims that amateur photography is content and links to things in the local community are some sort of community service.

The slime page shows you how slimy and corrupt the directories are. Right now the community directories have 15,000 links. About 14,000 of these go to local sites, and a little over 1000 go to evil affiliate programs (he, he, he). Of course, only about a quarter of the affiliate programs actively pay commissions.

I've had people get real upset at me for this structure. However, if you compared my directory structure to DMOZ, you would find that my structure actually gets more people to local community sites than DMOZ.

The stats page says I've had over 4 million page views on the directory. I've also had several million views of the calendar and other pages on the site. The protophoto stats show that the picture pages get viewed about 1.4 million times a year and the gallery pages get about 600,000 views a year.

Of course, all of this is dropping like a rock at the moment.

The site is a bear to maintain. This old link page shows that I've added about 21000 links to the directory. I've removed 3700 of the links because they've gone blank. There could be up to 1000 other dead links in the directory.

The only way for a community style site to thrive is figure out a way to users to contribute content to the site. I haven't been able to crack that code. I had some forums and a classified section which I had pulled as they only attracted spam and weren't worth the the maintenance costs. I would probably add stuff like that back to the site if ever I had any interest.

Not being able to crack that market, I am letting things idle as a link farm. The link farm breaks even and is really the only source of inbound traffic for several local community organizations and artists. Blogs tend to link to politicians and other bloggers, they rarely link to artists.

In some ways, I am glad that the site is a failure. If I had even an inkling of success, I probably would have hired people. Since I really dislike the corrupt UEA, I probably would have still shot my mouth off about vouchers, been publically ostracized for the effort, then I would have had to lay my employees off.

But Do They Have Self Esteem?

I just heard some of those hate-mongering rightwing conservatives on Fox News talking about how so many people below the poverty level in the US not only have full bellies, they have Big Screen TVs.

The ones that don't are just waiting until the screens hit that sweet price point.

As a progressively minded blogger, I am livid at these Conservatives who judge the well being of people by how well people's beings are.

If I could crawl through the cable connection and confront that Nazi on Fox I would ask the Barbarian Capitalist the single question:

"Do they have self-esteem?"

"Barbarian Capitalism" is like the death sport Dodgeball that regressive schools used to play in the dark ages of America's past. In this hate-sport, children would throw big red bouncy balls at each other. If you were hit; your self-esteem would be destroyed, and you might as well commit suicide.

I am sure that all of these impoverished Americans sitting around this Thanksgiving Weekend watching the big game on big screen TVs with full bellies would give up the game, the full belly and big screen TV if they could just erase from their memories the horrific nightmare of being hit by a dodgeball.

And as for George W. Bush, with all of his wars and tax cuts, I would ask him a single question: "What good is a Big Screen TV if you can't afford the HDTV cable channels?"

High Definition Cable is a right! It is a basic necessity that the government should provide.

George W. Bush, inc. is indoctrinating Americnans with basic cable that includes Fox News. A progressive leader would be liberating the peoples with premium cable which includes the enlightened programming of HBO!

And as for the games. Half of the teams are going to lose this weekend. Doesn't that bother anyone?

It is all barbaric capitalism. In a progressive world, all teams would win and we would all have the same size and same resolution TV screens and have access to the same channel (there would be only one channel, but the programming on that channel would be so good that no-one would mind. Maybe it could show profiles of the glorious leader?)

Having choice destroys self-esteem as in any system with choice, it is possible to make bad choices. In a progressive world, there are no choices, no red balls to dodge, and we all live happily and equally with self esteem for all.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Dark Side of Sesame Street

Perhaps the reason I am such a curmudgeon is that I saw the dark side of Sesame Street when I was a kid. I remember watching Sesame Street when dirty kids ran through fields full of cows. They showed this despite the fact that cows release greenhouse gasses that cause global warming.

I can even remember Cookie Monster eating a pipe. Then there was that whole episode where Big Bird had an imaginary Snuffleupagus.

Oh, I laughed "at" not "with" Big Bird on that one.

I still think of Big Bird as a big yellow funny shaped creature, and fail to appreciate the bird's full personhood.

Yes, I saw, was delighted by and still remember the adult only version of Sesame Street shown in the 60s. A large number of people ended up experimenting with drugs because of the first two years of the program.

I remember becoming disappointed with the Street in later years. I thought season three and on of the street was too clean. I missed the sensual scenes of dirty kids running in fields. Later seasons were just too much like Mr. Rogers for my urbane tastes.

Worst of all. I secretly delighted in the Muppet Show. The Muppet Show showed us raw side of being Gonzo. I loved the Muppet Show more than even the adult only Sesame Street episodes.

By watching images not suitable for children in my formative years, I became desensitized to social justice and peoples progress. I think horrible thoughts these days. For example, I think people should yank their kids from public school and go private. I would vote against any candidate offering universal health care.

he, he, he.

Ssshhh, if you want to know something even more sinister about me than my reveling in the adult only Sesame Street.

When I was a kid, my grandparents had a handmade Punch and Judy puppet set. The set had a strange little grinder box. One of the puppets was a red devilish puppet named Mephistopheles who would put Punch and Judy in the grinder and turn them into sausages!!!!

It was so funny.

That's right! Mephistopheles would grind Punch and Judy into Sausage.

Mephistopheles did all sorts of other terrible things to Punch and Judy.

Having had direct exposure to Punch and Judy puppets has resulted in all sorts of self-esteem and social adjustment issues.

I supported the troop surge, even though it is putting the best and brightest of our nation through a grinder.

I also delighted in racist literature such as Uncle Remus's tales of Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby. Of course, I didn't realize it was racist until Romney was called racist for using the term "tar baby" to refer to a sticky mess. I've whistled zip-a-di-do-dah to myself when I've encountered briar patches in the wilderness.

But, don't tell anyone. That will be our secret.

Yes, the world clearly is a worse place becaue people like Jim Hansen, my grandfather, Mother Goose, Joel Chandler Harris, the Brothers Grimm and others wontonly exposed kids to unsuitable adult images. If only Jim Hansen had never shown those kids running in a field full of cows ... we would have progressed as a society. But I saw Cookie monster eat a pipe and am now forever tainted.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving,

I was looking at my web stats and realized that I probably shouldn't have written posts favoring vouchers. I see that most of the people who had links to Salt Lake Sites pulled 'em in the last months. Going against a group as powerful as the UEA has consequences.

I used to get about $400 in ad revenue on the sites in the fourth quarter, which I would use to pay the hosting fees. I still hope to get $300, although I am really braced to see nada.

I am extremely grateful to live in a free country. I was able to risk starting some local sites. There was interest in the project in Missoula. Not surprisingly, I only saw hostility in Utah. Of course, the goal of my project was to show the diversity of the community. Utah is a place where people strive for conformance.

I am thankful for living in a country where I was able to experiment with ideas without being hung up by my thumbs in the towns square as a result. I would be hanging by my thumbs in the town square if I tried this in a progressive country like North Korea or Cuba.

I am thankful for free thinkers like Patrick Byrne who are willing to state opinions despite the fact that the pack will try to bring him down.

Speaking of people who try to do good, I am thankful to live in a world where a person who dedicated himself to advancing the Boy Scouts prospered in the process. It is inspiring to know that a person made six figures by doing good.

I wish it were possible for teachers to make six figure salaries. They could if they were allowed to start teaching companies.

Professors at state Universities routinely make six figures. Most do so by thrusting daggers in the backs of the peers and graduate students. So, I guess I wouldn't count the wealthy professoriat among the class of people doing well by doing good.

I am extremely thankful this year for the brave men and women who served our nation abroad. I've known several people who served abroad and lost their lifelong friendships at home as a result. These veterans shrug and say that their schools buddies must not have really been friends ... still it is painful to be made a pariah for trying to do good.

The people in this world who stand against group think to do good are real heroes in my book. They, above all, deserve thanks.

I am thankful that General Patreus and George Bush stood against Pelosi and Reid and did the troop surge. There would have been a slaughter if they did not stand against group think. I we can find a way to exit from the area with a functioning democracy. I suspect that the US government will continue to be bumbling and inept in its doings.

Speaking of Exit Strategies ... During the decades that I've lived in Salt Lake, I've been asked some twenty or so times to leave. Mormons tell people to leave in firm, steady yet polite voices. Progressives do so with black slurs and backstabbing. I've become too jaded living here. So, I put a pull asking for thoughts on where I should go next.

I was born in Denver. I can actually claim to be a third generation Coloradan!

I love the Grand Junction area. It has access to both mountains and desert. I could be happy living on the Colorado River. Grand Junction just doesn't have a good University. I still have fantasies that someone might be interested in my mathematical research.

Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Missoula and Durango all have universities that blow the socks off anything Utah has to offer. There used to be a University in Boulder. I visited Boulder a few years back thinking to make that place my home.

There was a large progressive church where Colorado University used to stand. I went to some pagan religious ceremonies in the buildings that once housed classrooms. The priests at the CU Church seemed more interested in indoctrination than in teaching, the initiates seemed more interested in conforming than in learning.

There is a new Wyoming Catholic College in Lander. I understand that WCC wants to revive the classical liberal curriculum. It would be cool to live in an area with a school trying to revive the classical liberal world view, although I would prefer to see a nondenominational effort. Of course, it is entirely possible that you have to have a well stated religion that is separate from science to avoid the trap of trying to elevate science to a religion.

Wyoming is cold, and I don't know if there is a market for my skill set (database and web programming); So, I didn't put Lander or Laramie on the list. In Colorado and Utah, you can always just turn the heat off and wear a sweater when money gets tight. In Montana and Wyoming: if you turn the heat off; you die.

Damn, my thanksgiving post is coming off as jaded.

I am thankful for the efforts of so many to help clean up the air in Salt Lake Valley. Salt Lake is prone to inversions. Due to some very hard work and dedication to the environment, the population of the valley has been able to double without a corresponding increase in pollution. The valley is still smoggy in the winter, but it is far better than it was in the 70s.

I am thankful that most of the things I prayed for as a youth never happened. Things would be a lot worse if God had listened to me. I am thankful that most people ignore what they are taught in school. I am thankful that most politicians are inept. Things get bad when politicians realize their grandiose dreams. I am thankful for the billions of people who work to achieve their modest dreams. A collection of individual dreams is so much more interesting than singular dream of a collective.

I am thankful for each and every American who is working to achieve their modest dream, and am thankful that America has so far avoided the nightmare of a collective.

Monday, November 19, 2007

An Engineered Recession?

I wonder if the left is working on engineering a recession for 2008. A big recession could dramatically improve the changes that the Democrats could win big in 2008. I've heard a large number of progressive newspeople, like Krugman, talking about recession. This Report on Yahoo says that the two progressive leaders Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are talking about ways to destroy the US currency.

The fact that demand for gas in the US is unabated despite the rise in prices shows that calls for conservation have pretty much gone unheeded.

It is really silly that the progressive tax system and excessive social policies toward social services have discouraged Americans from saving. If Americans had their retirement savings invested in the market, rather than in the pay as you go plan of social security, I think we could weather any challenges thrown at us by the international community. As it stands, I think there is a good chance that the left would be able to engineer a major recession for the 2008 elections.

We have a public education system that teaches Americans how to be slaves. Maybe it is our destiny to diminish. Kurt Vonnegutt used the term "will to become." The millions of progressives who prefer feudalism to freedom just might will us to become a nation of slaves.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Splash Page

I made a splash page for this blog. The picture is of Coco looking into a mine shaft.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Back in Salt Lake

If you are wondering; Coco pooped on the brand new carpet of the home I was visiting in Hamilton, Montana; So, I took her back to Salt Lake where the carpet is 40 years old and has been subject, over the ages, to worse things than puppy poop.

It is sad, Coco was having a lot of fun living in the countryside. Unfortunately, she seems to have developed a taste for dead things found by the side of the road.

Coco, here is a hint: If wild animals didn't eat it; it is probably bad for you. Yes, this adage includes things found in the mulch pile. It is especially true for things found in a mulch pile.

Blodgett CanyonThe goal of this trip was not to take pictures, but I managed to snag a few shots. Here is a short walk up Blodgett Canyon and Fort Missoula. I will be labeling pictures throughout the week. The Year Sum report shows pictures by date.

The reason I take pictures of towns (instead of the scenery around the town--like real photographers do) is that I am trying to build traffic for a collection of community directories. Nobody else links to the directories; so I must.

My sister Connie has a collection of directories (under the banner that focus on Idaho and Montana. We are actually testing two different concepts. The first is a visual pay for inclusion directory. The second is a text only directory.

I am super jealous. When I talk to people in Montana about the goals of the project, I get greeted with interest in the project. When I mention the project to people, I am often rewarded with good conversation.

When I mention the community directory project in Utah, I am usually heaped with scorn and suspicion.

I mention this as I have been thinking about education of late.

Utah is a monoculture. 96% of the people in this state go to the same cookie-cutter public schools. It is a state where pretty much everyone has been indoctrinated with twice heated version of the Dewey's version of the Material Dialectics.

The UEA teaches a philosophy of intolerance where one is expected to conform to the molds dictated by the political class or live as an outcast. The Mormons are bad. The progressives are a thousand times worse.

This philosophy that one must dominate or be dominated reduces people to a base level where they become inhospitable and suspicious of new ideas. The virulent intolerance taught by the UEA creates a fractured society where people set to each others' throats before engaging in discourse.

This thing where 96% of the people go to the same school has created a culture where different perspectives cannot exist in parallel. There is one school with political titans battling for total supremacy over the school.

The result is a mean, snipy rude people who are incapable of talking to each other in a civil manner.

I've only take pictures of the exterior of buildings because, quite frankly, I really don't like the people inside the buildings.

Places where there is a diversity of schools tend to breed cultures where people are more aware of different perspectives and are open to discussing ideas.

Anyway, while wandering through Montana, I met a large number of extremely friendly people. I even found myself questioning why I only take pictures of the exterior of buildings. I was actually invited indoors. That is something that would never happen in Utah. Montana has lower taxes and a much greater diversity in schools.

I happen to love books and bookstores.

I suddenly have an image in my mind of the fat guy who bends the chair at the cash register of King's English. The conversation was quite comical. The guy accidentally made a comparison between Christianity and homosexuality. He then spent ten minutes in an absolutely absurd monologue where he apologized for comparing a group we are supposed to love, homosexuals, to a group that progressives are supposed to hate: the Christians. I really wish I had the monologue recorded.

I've had other bad experiences at The Kings English and Sam Wellers. On the reverse side, I was once tossed out of a bookstore in Saint George simply for mentioning that I read Giant Joshua by the apostate Maurine Whipple.

The only Utah Bookstore that I ever truly loved was a thing called Experienced Books in Sugarhouse. The store was owned by a guy named Keith who truly loved books. His primary concern was the quality of the writing.

While the majority of bookstores in Utah only carry books that support their ideology, Keith had a selection of books with a phenomenal breadth that was challenged only by the University's Library. Even worse, I think he may have read every single book in the store.

Anyway, my trip to Montana was fun. I had about twelve really interesting and friendly conversations with absolute strangers.

You would think that, in a state where 96% of the people went to the same school, people would be friendlier. Yet, I am now of the opinion that this system based on the premise that one must dominate or perish leads to a terse and suspicious character. While societies that openly have different schools of thought and accept that people of different schools might actually see the world differently, tend to become more civil with time.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Custom Domain

I just moved this blog to a "custom domain." The custom domain is

A custom domain is still hosted by The reason I chose the custom domain route over the FTP route was that Google redirects the old pages to my new site. The blogger program says that the FTP route simply deletes the old domain.

If anyone has links to this site, you might want to change your links. The old links should all URL forward to the right place.

Of course, I am pretty much the only person who links here. I will be changing links this afternoon.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mind Farts

The Daily Interlake has an interesting article about Staff Sargeant Brian Rhodes who is a public relation officer in Baghdad. As a public information officer, he takes reporters to the hot spots and gets to see first hand what the reporters choose to report. They seem to prefer writing reports about violence to peace.

I hope that Iraq can have a month or two of reduced violence. My big fear is that there will be a big increase in violence next year as international groups try to influence the US election.

It is strange. I have a horrible habit of being out of sync with the nation. I was against the invasion of Iraq, but for the surge. I was hoping that the voucher vote wouldn't have resulted in a landslide against it. Perhaps it is just a tendency to run in the opposite direction of the sheep.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Un Googled

It appears that my blog has been removed from the Google Search Engine.

It has a technorati rating of 4, which is about as low as a blog can get.

One of the problems is that google started blocking webcrawlers from the /search directory. They do this with a Disallow statement in the robots.txt file. The label links all go to this directory. To make matters worse, the date links use javascript. This structure essentially means that only the seven entries on the front page get crawled by google each month. None of the internal pages will be crawled.

So, I will probably be moving this blog to a new location.

The big challenge is that blogger doesn't have a mechanism for backing up posts and comments.

Anyway, if none of the pages get crawled, then I guess there is no point in dropping mind farts on this blog.

BTW, the voucher proposal went down big time. Writing about the proposal brought back the depressing memories of when I was cornered by the politically correct gatekeepers at the U's Education department. It is sad that so many people today fear choice and diversity.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Swim in the Bitterroot

I was called away to Hamilton, Montana and will miss the elections. It is ashame as I would love to vote for a more open and productive education system.

One Wet PuppyCoco took a swim in the Bitterroot. The water was all shivery cold, but she had so much fun. She would have played 'til hypothermia set in. Speaking of hypothermia, I think that, on average, people in Montana spend more money on coats than people from Utah. My warm winter coat appears a bit pathetic.

Quite frankly, I hate releasing green house gasses just so I can stay warm. In Salt Lake, it is possible to heat a living space just by baking some bread. For that matter, I've gone years without turning on the heater in my apartment. Of course, I tend to work 12 hour days and just use the apartment for sleeping. So 52 degrees was adequate.

Welcome to River ParkAnyway, Coco went swimming at the Kiwanis River Park. The park has this nifty feature where they carved little animal figures into the tree stumps. They had a similar statue in the Denver City Park.

Salmon v. BearSomeone upgraded Salmon, Idaho by placing a bear statue in their new river park. Creating public right of ways along rivers and green corridors fits perfectly in the scope of what local community governments need to do. Salmon had the problem that an old gas station and abandonned cheese factory had polluted the soil in the prime real estate near the Salmon River. Transforming the area into a city park was a wise decision. This is especially true in a town that derives a great deal of income from the rafting and recreational fishing industry.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Tie In

Oops, I forgot the tie in between the last two posts. In the fractional post I note that vouchers would increase per student spending and would increase total spending (private and public) on K-12 education.

Because the program is breaking an the educational monopoly (96% of the market) it would reduce total money controlled by the monopoly. So there would be less spending on public education. The reason for the Power v. Wealth post is that I figure that this last figure is really only of interest to people who consider the power of the public education to be more important to the wealth that students gain through increased spending on their education. The power weilded by the public teachers would decrease. If you consider this to be the primary factor in education they you should vote against the proposal. If you consider the wealth gained through diversity in education is more important; you should vote for the proposal.

Fractional Debate

Prior to becoming a Congressman, Representative Rob Bishop spent 28 years as a public school teacher; so, it is not surprising that he doesn't know how fractions work. Very few people in public education these days seem to understand complex ideas like fractions or grammar. Anyway, Representative Bishop is running a TV ad that says:

[the voucher system] increases funds for spending on public schools

He is wrong. Vouchers will decrease spending on public schools. It will, however, increase total spending on education.

The Teachers Union is running ads that say vouchers will pull money from the public schools and conclude that this will decrease spending per student in public schools and increase class sizes. This, again, is not true. Vouchers would reduce the number of students at a greater rate than the reduced funding; so it actually increases spending per student.

Of course, I would not expect a group of public school teachers to be able to do fractions. I forgive them this error.

While fractions are above the required skill set for public school teachers, I think fractions are a good thing for voters to understand. This whole voucher debate is about the complex inner working of fractions.

The Math of Vouchers

Utah is a land of extremes. I've seen in several blogs and news articles the figure that 96% of Utah students go to public school. (I have not found an authoritative source for this number). Utah has an extremely high birth rate. The result of these facts is that Utah has both the highest tax burden for taxpayer in the US and ranks among the lowest in per capita spending per student. States with higher percentages of students in private school have more money to spend per public school student and have a lower tax burden.

The whole voucher thing will help correct this imbalance.

The extremely high tax burden makes it hard to improve per student spending. Since there is a projected spike in new students in coming years, Utah will soon be facing an education crisis.

The number of students is outside the control of the legislature. Utah could reduce the crisis if it found a way to divert some of the increase in our school population to private schools, where they are less of a burden on the state.

The voucher program would create a mechanism that would allow students underserved by the public school system a way out. It does this by creating a resource that follows the student. The resource ranges from $3000 to $500 depending on a family's income.

If a student leaves the public school, they will take $3k and add some of their personal money and go to a private school. They will leave $4k in the public school.

So, here is what the numbers do:

There are some students who are going to private schools who will use vouchers. This group pays taxes for services that they do not use. The voucher system will decrease the total amount of wealth transferred from this group. Reducing this wealth transfer directly decreases spending on public schools. There is a fairness issue here. The system is charging people for a service that they do not use.

A larger group will be students who leave the public school and go to private schools. The students in this group will take $3000 with them to their new school, but leave $4000 in the public school system. The families of these students are likely to spend an additional $2000 of their own money on education. The people in this group will free up resources for other students in public education. They will dramatically increase the amount spent in private education. This group will result in a big boost in total education expenses in the state.

Utah currently has only a tiny number of students in private schools. So, the proposal is likely to result in a big increase in the total spent on education. This increase would be realized primarily by the private schools.

Since Utah is expecting a big influx of students in upcoming years, we are likely to see a boom in the private school industry, while the public school system simply stays phenomenally large.

The public school system is like Walmart. The new fad of town sponsored Farmers Markets has decreased the growth of Walmart, but Walmart is still really big. Just as the Farmers Market has spurred a growth in small independently owned farms, the voucher system will spur the growth of small independently owned schools. The initiative simply increases local ownership, quality and diversity. Just as Walmart is huge, the public school system will remain huge.


This is the summary of the voucher proposal:

The Total amount spent on education increases and per student spending increases.

This increase will be realized primarily by the private school system.

The boom in privately owned schools would lead to a boom in privately owned local equity. The increase in privately owned equity would increase overall wealth in the state and increase state tax revenues.

The high taxpayer burden for education in Utah would remain the same, but there would be an increase in spending per student. The only social justice question is that wealthy families currently sending their children to private schools could get a break of $500 per child. This is countered by moral questions about robbing peter to pay paul.

Back to the Campaigns

It is sad, but most of the ads on the voucher proposal seem to be misleading people. The voucher system will increase spending per student. It will dramatically increase the amount spent on private education in this state. It will decrease the total number of students in public schools and decrease the growth of the public education behemoth (which will remain humongous).

Richard Eyre of Values Parenting has one of the better commercial on vouchers. In his commercial he has a plate with thirty stacks of cookies seven cookies high to represent a public school classroom. He shows that if you take one of the stacks of cookies from the plate, then redistribute 4 of the cookies from the stack back on the plate, the remaining stacks of cookies would be higher.

I wish his commercial showed additional cookies being added to the stacks going to the private schools. The amount of money parents spend on their kids should count as money spent on kids. Alas, I fear Mr. Eyre's model is far too complicated for people educated in the public school system to comprehend.

Power v. Wealth

This post exists so that I can reference it in the next post.

Robert Kiyosaki pushes a get rich quick scheme book called "Rich Dad Poor Dad." Mr. Kiyosaki's father (the poor dad) was a bureaucrat in the Hawaiian education system. The poor dad excelled at the political techniques needed to move ahead in a big bureaucracy. He didn't know how money works, and was often in financial turmoil.

The poor dad actually belonged to his best friend. This dad taught the young Kiyosaki about the way money works. Following the financial advice of the rich dad, Mr. Kiyosaki was able to do more in his life than if he followed the path of his bureaucratic dad.

Now, I did not like the Rich Dad Poor Book (so no link). The one gem I took away from it was that the bureaucratic mindset judges success by the amount of power the bureaucrat has over others. The free market mindset judges one's success by what one does with their resources. Success to the bureaucrat is the number of people below them in the political hierarchy. The free marketeer judges success by the thing that they have created in life.

I've seen several posts claiming that 96% of Utah's students are in public education.

A monopoly that has absolute control over a segment market is the ultimate desire of the bureaucratic mindset. It doesn't really matter how well the monopoly performs. The state of monopolistic control is the ultimate goal.

The ideal of this paradigm is the organization man who denies their personal ego then throws their entire being into the power structure of the group.

My sympathies are with the small companies that are struggling to come into existences. I look at vouchers choice and really want to see what these independent thinkers would create. I understand the desire to create but not the desire to control.

I fear that the teacher's unions, that are throwing millions to stop freedom of choice in education, are spurred by a primal desire for power. The power is in the monopoly.

When I look at the voucher debate, I see a pro-voucher group driven by the desire to create, and the teachers unions driven by the desire to control. Or better state, I see a group set on nothing less that absolute dominance.

The funny thing is that the voucher proposal will go down in defeat simply because the press will question the motives of the private schools. The public will experience a sense of fear and vote no. We fear that the private schools might create wealth, or do a better job of education for less, not realizing that we've given total power to a more insidious group that has its own motive.

It is true that the political mind that spends its days grubbing for power rarely ends up with as much wealth as the evil capitalist. I really can't say that their motives are purer.

I do feel comfortable saying that the person dedicated to the production of wealth produces more wealth than the person dedicated to the pursuit of power. For that matter, those dedicated to the pursuit of power often impoverish those around them.

I think we are driven by the idea that schools pursuing the creation of wealth will somehow corrupt our kids; so we opt for those who pursue power.

I actually see a well educated mind as the greatest wealth that a person can eve4r hope to attain, and that the best way to cultivate well educated minds is through freedom.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Utah Educational Savings Plan

I don't know what to do on this one.

The The Utah Educational Savings Plan encourages people to save for college. I agree with this message wholeheartedly. The program is administered by a political group (The Utah Board of Regents) as such it gives special 529 tax savings. Basically, you don't have to pay capital gains tax on profits from the investment if you use the investment for education.

It looks like the money will actually be invested with the multi billion dollar Vanguard Group investment funds. The UESP web site brags that they have already transferred over $2 billion in savings from smaller independent banks or independently owned stock to the massive Vanguard Investment group.

I love the message that people should save for college. The site tears my heart apart, however, because it is using special tax breaks to transfer savings from the financial instruments of the family's choice to one of these mixed government/private sector investment schemes.

It is like so many of the bastardized plans that come out of the government. I love the intention but see the implementation as something that does great harm.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Finding the Best School

I think there is some misunderstanding of which school is best for which student. Way back in the day, I met a person researching the issue and he explained that things were the reverse of what people typically think. The top students do best in public schools, Middlesome students do best in private schools. Special needs students tend to do better in public schools as well.

The reason for this has to do with the source of the income. Public schools are publically funded, which means that the teachers get to choose where to allocate their time and attention. Teachers tend to take to the extremes. Those teachers who love their subject will choose favorites from the bright motivated students in the class interested in the subject.

Those teachers motivated by charitable desires divert attention toward the special needs students. In many schools, average Joe student sits there and languishes. Students who are a bit rowdy are diagnosed with ADHD, given some pills to pop so that they will languish without disturbing the teacher.

The funding for private school comes from the parent's pocket. With parents as the customer, it is much more difficult to divert resources from student A to student B. The customer is much more attentive to any favoratism.

If your kid is super motivated and skilled at taking advantage of the resources offered, then they should go to public schools. The public schools have the deep pocket of the taxpayet to provide better quality resources. As I understand, more doctors and lawyers come from public schools.

If your kid has a hard time being motivated, they are better served by the private school that is trying to deliver a given product.

Special needs kids generally do better in public schools. Again, it is the matter that the public school is able to divert resources from the middle to administer the needs of the ends. Private schools are not in a position to divert resources from other kids to handle the special needs kids.

They do okay when the extra cost of handling special needs kids is figured in the price.

In a public school, the money comes from the government and it up to the students and teachers in a political process to decide how it gets spent. It is not uncommon to see $8k being allocated per student with some kids getting a $20k education and those in the middle getting short changed with a $3k education.

The private school, might get $5k per student, but it is not able to divert those resources either up or down. The middle students get short changed some, but not to the extent that would happen in a public school.

The student that is best served by the public school is your typical unmotivated teen from a middle or lower income family. Well educated parents who know how to use the system are better off sending their kids to the public school, then switching to private only if they have problems with the school.

The contrast of this article was written in broad strokes. Private schools tend to follow a business plan where they write a business model and design the education as product. A private school designed for special needs kids will rock. One just trying to give an education will have a hard time with the special needs kids. A private school dedicated to teaching the next generation of doctors will produce doctors. However, your run of the mill private school simply won't have the resources of a big public school.

In my ideal education system, I would want students to be able to get the resources that best suit their needs. That means a diverse education system with schools of different payment structures and interests. If a student isn't finding what they need at their current school, they should be able to move on.

The public schools, like other leftwing controlled institutions, have the nasty habit of playing the ends against the middle.

My ideal system is one where the schools design the product, and the students seek out the product that will help them develop and achieve positive goals.

Added 10/30/2007: Chicago University Report says Catholic Schools work in inner cities.

New Photos

Bridge on the MoveI took another round of photos of the 4500 South Bridge Construction. It was really cool. About a thousand people showed up to watch a bridge put into place. They used massive hydraulic moving equipment to move the old bridge out of the way and the new bridge in place.

Construction CrowdCrowds lined Wasatch Boulevard, I215, the Churchill Junior High field and Olympus Hills Park.

Liberty Park PondI get a large number of hits on the Liberty Park gallery; so I took a few new pictures of that park. Last week, I took some pictures of the Trax Construction at the Gateway Plaza.

Granite Education CenterI also decided to do a walk around the new Granite School District Offices. As you can see, the Utah Public school system is really hurting for money. The district bosses have to work in substandard conditions. There are some who make under $100,000 a year!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mormon Schools

Natalie R. Collins reports that, at her daughter's junior high, the active Mormons play a game where they dress special on a given day. The result of the game is that is easy to vet out which kids are Mormon and which are not.

I lead in with this simply to note that, in Utah, things are different.

As my college professors would put it: the Mormons have hegemony in this state.

Traveling around the state, you will find an LDS Seminary adjacent to just about every public school. Utah law allows generous off campus privileges so that students can attend classes in the seminary. When I was in school, Utah graduation requirements were a bit easier than most states to free up time so the kids could go to seminary.

The Utah school paradox is that, although Utah has a strongly religious population, Utah also has the highest percentage of students that go to public schools.

The reason for this is obvious. In Utah, the public school system is essentially the Mormon parochial school system. Looking through the list of private schools, you just don't find a category of Mormon schools.

It is my observation that the LDS world view is very much driven by community. When you move into an area, you are expected to go to the ward for the area, and that your children will go to the public school in the area. I get the feeling that most Mormons really aren't keen on uppity people who go to private schools.

As the LDS have hegemony in the public schools, a sizeable portion of the private school population is non-Mormon families trying to get their children into a more secular environment.

At this point in time, the primary beneficiary of the voucher law will be non-Mormon kids from lower income levels who feel alienated being in a Mormon dominated public school, but can't afford a way out.

A few critics of the voucher proposal seem to be positioning the voucher issue as an effort of rightwing Mormons to pull their students from the public school system. I really don't see this. The Mormons I know are all very content with their kids going to the neighborhood church and the neighborhood public school. The seminary is positioned to counter any anti-Mormon bias of the secular school.

Here, I should note that I am a cynical b-tard who thinks the LDS Church writes all Utah legislation then sends it to the legislature for a rubber stamp. However, as the vouchers are not advantageous to LDS Church (they will still continue to use and dominate the public schools) I don't buy this argument.

I've toyed with the idea that the LDS Church wants to get into the private school business, and that the voucher issue is a way to get the Utah taxpayer's to fund the creation of a new Mormon owned school system. If this were the case, then I think we would be seeing Mormon schools popping up throughout the state. I don't see this happening.

In my lifetime, the LDS Church has divested itself of many of its businesses including its chain of department stores, its hospitals and some of its financial institutions.

The best I can come to a nefarious motivation on the voucher law is that the Utah Republican majority wants Utah to be a leader on national conservative issues. Passing the vouchers increases the states credentials as a center of conservative thought. The motivation is that the Mormons want to ease up on their local hegemony so that they can play a braoder role in the world of ideas. This motivation would make Dr. Evil yawn.

When I was in the U of U's education department, I was taught to see everything as great hegemonic battles. The idea is that, for society to progress, all socio-economic actions must be placed in the context of a class struggle. We can find such struggle in Mormon history. In early Mormon history, it appears the LDS Church was set on finding an area that they could dominate, politically, socially and culturally.

In the last half century, though, the LDS Church seems much more interested in its role as an international organization, and less on the desire to dominate the local scene.

If anything, I think the LDS Church wants to promote Utah as a meeting place of religions. This last half century has seen the construction of Mosques, Hindu Temples and Synagogues and that there is an authentic desire to have a diversity of schools and diversity of religious thought in the valley. Some of these efforts have received direct support from the LDS Church.

As for the motivation of the political leadership in the state, I think they are driven primarily by economic concerns. The fact that Utah has the highest percentage of its work force coming from the same cookie cutter public schools means that we lack the diversity of thought of other economic hubs. The lack of private schools makes it hard to attract businesses to the state.

Regardless, I can find no reason to characterize the voucher proposal as some sort of "Mormon-thing" as the LDS Church is not a primary benefactor of the proposal. Non-Mormons are more likely to use the vouchers than Mormons. The idea really seems to be propelled by the belief that diversity in schools will lead to better education for all.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Competition in Schools

If you are opposed to vouchers; one of the best ways to sway the popular vote to your side is simply to inject the word "competition" into the conversation as many times as possible. This is the technique used in the Voucher Debate on Comcast on Demand.

I couldn't find a link to the program. I watched it at a house that had Comcast On Demand, but didn't have a note pad handy. I suspect it was the 9/27/2007 Hinckley Forum Debate between Carol Spackman and Richard Eyre. I could be wrong.

Praising competition as the foundation of the free market makes one seem open minded and balanced, while making the free market seemed closed minded, harsh and distant. As I argued in my last post this is nothing more than a chimera.

Education is primarily a nurturing activity. It is not a competitive activity. Most people have bad memories of grade competition. They want a system of education where their children learn, and not one where they claw at each other in some sort of graded arena for the teacher's attention.

If ten kids entered a math class based entirely on competition. You are likely to end up with two pretentious twits who are okay at math but whose egos are tied around the subject in a distorted way. The other eight would spend their lives thinking that they were "stupid at math."

Parents do not want this for their kids. They want their children in nurturing environments where the students learn.

Carol Spackman clearly won the debate because she spouted the word competition until the single word rang above all other arguments. She even pulled a theatrical stunt where she babbled about competition until her eyes rolled back. I am sure that this technique polled well.

If you are for vouchers, you have to emphasize that freedom, not competition, is the foundation of the free market. The reason that private education is able to do more with less is that, when a family has the freedom to choose their school, they are in a position to create a deeper more cooperative relation with the school. When there is freedom of choice, people are able to create more substantive forms of cooperation than one where the child's education is left to the dictates of a bureaucracy.

Competition and cooperation are complementary elements of life. What parents and students want are schools that cooperate with the family in achieving a quality education for the child. The voucher system does this by creating an structure where schools compete for students. These schools compete by showing who can be the most cooperative with the parent and child.

Carol Spackman spoke proudly of all the competitions that students have to endure in public schools. The competitions, however, are between the students. The NEA would not abide by competitions between the teachers.

The public schools structure is one that nurtures the teachers, but throws the students in a competitive environment where they most compete for the school's resources or diminish.

The private school system is one where the schools compete for students. It means the competition takes place among the schools. This competition is one where mediocre schools fail. That is, schools which aren't able to create an environment where their students excel fall to the wayside. As the free market is able to absorbed failed teachers in other occupations, this is more acceptable to the public school system which forces the failure onto the students.

Teaching Companies

My favorite subject is teaching companies.

The voucher and charter systems create competition among schools. The teaching company structure would go one level deeper and create direct competition between classrooms. There would be a competition among companies about who could teach subject XXX best.

I bring up teaching companies as they show an interesting dynamic about how things could work in a fully open education structure. A teaching company cooperates with the school to provide quality courses to the students. They cooperate with the students in the learning process. There would be a competition between the teaching companies on how well they cooperate with the students and school. A teaching company that is not able to adapt its course to a given school is likely to lose that contract. A teaching company that is not able cooperate with the students in the learning process is apt to raise the ire of students, and put the teaching contract in question.

Lets say you have a successful teaching company in a school that is failing, the structure would allow the successful of the school to quickly migrate to a new market when the school goes under.

Cooperation and competition are complementary ideas. An open education market would creates a structure where the competition exists among the providers, and it creates a structure that is most nurturing for the students. The closed system of the public schools creates a structure that is nurturing for the teachers, but leaves the students in a base competition for the school's resources. A few students excel in this environment. Most languish. We can judge the high fail rate of the public schools by the large number of people who come out of the schools with a less than adequate education and languish in dysfunctional lives.