Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Public School Agenda? Of Course!

An article of mine over on LewRockwell.com -- the best-read libertarian website in the world:




A Public School Agenda? Of Course!
Jim Fedako


Let me be honest and forthright: I have an agenda – I always do.

You can be certain that I am typing with a purpose in mind. I am typing in order to satisfy a much sought-after end. My end – my reason – is the hope that this article will influence a few, turning them toward the path of liberty.

Are you shocked or offended that I have an agenda? Is it wrong – no, is it necessarily evil when a man has an agenda; when a man has a given end for which he will use some means to obtain? Certainly not. We all have agendas that guide our actions. And we accept the presence of our own personal agendas without question or concern.

When discussing the evils of government-run education, many folks say that I have a personal agenda. Well, no kidding. If I wake in the morning, I have an agenda. The rhetorical use of the word agenda in a pejorative sense implies that others do not have agendas – this being a false assertion. Those folks have at least one agenda that gets them out of bed in the morning: to continue forcing me to pay for their government school nonsense.

So why it is that many – nay, most Americans – take offense to the idea that public schools have an agenda? Why is it that folks who recognize their own agendas cannot recognize that the individuals running the school system have agendas too? Why can’t these folks accept that those who fought some 150 years ago for the adoption of government-run schools had an evil agenda? Or that many today use government schools for vile intentions? Why not? Yes, why not, indeed?

The reason is twofold: The first is that the prime end of government-run education is graduates who support the system. This is not some hidden agenda – it is right out in the open. This publicly lauded end is termed citizenship – and a good citizen always supports the so-called public good of government education. When the schools say that our goal is to educate citizens, you can be certain that they do not mean citizens who question the state or its bureaucracies and unions.

Good citizens believe that teachers and administrators, as government employees, know best. Even if the material is enough to raise hairs, the good citizen trusts the schools. And, should a parent begin to question the schools, the group – the collective consisting of neighbors, friends, etc. – applies increasing pressure to bring the recalcitrant back in line – back to being a good citizen.

The second reason is that anyone seeking to manipulate and indoctrinate the youth can find no better means than a system of mandatory education. This is true whether the purpose is to extend and enhance the coercive power of government or to pollute young minds with perverse nonsense. It is also true for any other goal, no matter how nefarious or seemingly benign. The schools are the agent of change.

Therefore, it is no wonder that the majority supports government schools.

Moreover, if your goal is to create citizens who support the collective, and you are not willing to take up arms, you adopt a Gramscian approach and slowly destroy the institutions of free association – of liberty and freedom. You attack the family, the church, etc., in a roundabout way. You employ the strategy of the indirect approach – you indoctrinate the youth. By doing so, you break the bond of parent and child without resorting to loud confrontations and street fighting.

You simply use the classroom to define the state and its minions as maternal and paternal figures. Then, you sit back and allow subsequent generations – educated by the state – to chip away at the bedrock institutions over time. Sure, you have the occasional pitched fight, but these only serve as feints covering your flanking maneuvers. Your war is not one of attrition; it is one of subversion and time.

The conservative claims a liberal bias in education; they claim a liberal agenda. They are right. However, the conservatives only propose to force their bias on the liberals. The conservatives also have an agenda. Both groups seek to use government, and both are winning and losing at the same time.

The issue is no longer individual versus the collective. The issue is now who has the power to educate and indoctrinate. Despite their rhetoric, most conservatives no longer stand for individual rights. In fact, these conservatives quickly drop the individual and champion the collective every time someone questions their cherished history. An evening listening to AM talk radio will prove that point: Liberals are teaching our children that Lincoln wasn’t an American hero! That he didn’t stand for liberty! Those folks are un-American!

The conservative solution is for the government schools to force-feed conservative mythology to every parent’s child, all in the name of liberty.

Of course, the essence of the current liberal worldview is also the collective – the collective of Prussia and Bismarck, along with that of Marx, etc. It is a vision that easily melds with the state and its schools. And it is a vision that is not all that different from the conservatives'.

While their respective messages are not the same, both groups subscribe to the state as the means and the collective as the ends.

I asked this question above: Is it wrong – no, is it necessarily evil when a man has an agenda; when a man has a given end for which he will use some means to obtain? I answered in the negative. However, I need to return to that response once more. A man can employ any means that does not violate the property rights of others. Therefore, he cannot invade your property to state his message. In addition, he cannot use force to make you pay for his message either. Other than those two rules, everything else is fair game.

Nevertheless, the so-called public schools violate both of those rules. Government has first claim to your children – this being true even if you home school – and will invade your property to deliver its message in the form of state-mandated curriculum and exams.

Additionally, government and its schools have first claim to your income – your property. Their means is one of evil, as it is a means backed by government – the social apparatus of coercion and compulsion (Mises).

Yes, I have an agenda, and so does government, its schools, and associated minions. Mine – no, ours is an agenda of liberty and peace while theirs is one of violence and control. Since we do not seek the violence of government to win the day, we have to educate to see our agenda through. We have much work left, but at the very least, we have the follies of government to use as our fool.

September 23, 2008



Jim Fedako is a homeschooling father of six who lives in Lewis Center, OH, and maintains a blog: Anti-Positivist.

Copyright © 2008 LewRockwell.com




Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Recycling: What a Waste!

Mise.org article: http://www.mises.org/story/1911

Recycling: What a Waste!

by Jim Fedako
[Posted on Thursday, September 22, 2005] [Subscribe at
email services and tell others]

This Fall, school kids across the country will again be taught a chief doctrine in the civic religion: recycle, not only because you fear the police but also because you love the planet. They come home well prepared to be the enforcers of the creed against parents who might inadvertently let a foil ball into the glass bin or overlook a plastic wrapper in the aluminum bin.

Oh, I used to believe in recycling, and I still believe in the other two Rs: reducing and reusing. But recycling? It's a waste of time, money, and ever scarce resources. What
John Tierney wrote in the New York Times nearly 10 years ago is still true: "Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America."

Reduce and reuse makes sense. With no investment in resources I can place the plastic grocery bag in the bathroom garbage can and save a penny or so for some more pressing need. Reducing and reusing are free market activities that are an absolute profitable investment of time and labor.

Any astute entrepreneur will see the benefit of conserving factors of production. Houses are built today with much, much less wood than homes built just 20 years ago; and they are built sturdier, for the most part anyway. The decision to reduce wood in houses was not prompted by a green's love for trees; it was a reaction to the increasing cost for wood products.

Using less wood makes financial sense and any entrepreneur worth his profit will change his recipe to conserve wood through better design or by substituting less dear materials for wood products.

A recent Mises article,
Ethanol and the Calculation Issue, discussed the inability to calculate the true cost of producing Ethanol. No one can calculate the cost of all the factors of production in the direction from the highest order labor and land down to the lowest order. Ethanol at the pump, though the Chicago School, Keynesians, etc., would certainly give the calculation the old college try. Absent government supports, the cost of Ethanol at the pump reveals the true economic cost of producing that fuel.

The same applies to recycling. What is the true cost of all factors involved in the recycling activity? I haven't a clue. Though using Misesian logic I know that the costs of recycling exceed the benefits. This is the simple result of the observation that recycling doesn't return a financial profit.

I used to recycle. It paid. As a child living in the Pittsburgh area, I would clean used glass containers. After collecting a sufficient amount of glass, my father would drive the three or so miles to the local glass factory where the owner gladly exchanged cleaned waste glass for dollars. It this instance I was an entrepreneur investing factors of production in order to turn dirty waste glass into capital. The value of the exchange exceeded my preference for time, elbow grease, and my parents' soap, water, and auto fuel. (Of course all of my exchanges against my parents' resources were high on my preference list, but that's another issue altogether).

What's wrong with recycling? The answer is simple; it doesn't pay. And since it doesn't pay it is an inefficient use of the time, money, and scarce resources. That's right, as Mises would have argued: let prices be your guide. Prices are essential to evaluate actions ex post. If the accounting of a near past event reveals a financial loss, the activity was a waste of both the entrepreneur's and society's scarce resources.

I'm supposed to believe that I need to invest resources into cleaning and sorting all sorts of recyclable materials for no compensation. And this is considered economically efficient? In some local communities--many thousands of which have recycling progreams--residents have to pay extra so that a company will recycle their paper, plastic, and glass. The recycling bins come with a per-month fee.

In other areas, such as my township, the garbage company profits at the mercy of the political class. The trustees in my township specified that in order to win the waste removal contract, the winning company has to provide recycling bins. Further, they have to send a special truck around to empty those neatly packed bins and deliver them to companies that have no pressing need for these unraw materials. The recycling bins are ostensibly free, but in reality their cost is bundled into my monthly waste removal bill.

Since there is no market for recyclable materials, at least no market sufficient to at least return my investment in soap and water, not to mention time and labor, I conclude that there is no pressing need for recycling. If landfills were truly in short supply then the cost of dumping waste would quickly rise. I would then see the financial benefit to reducing my waste volume, and since the recycling bin does not count toward waste volume, the more in the recycling bin, the less in the increasingly expensive garbage cans. Prices drive entrepreneurial calculations and, hence, human action. Recycling is no different.

Come on now, there can't be any benefit to even the neoclassical society if you actually have to pay someone to remove recyclables.

That recycling doesn't pay signifies that resources devoted to recycling activities would be better utilized in other modes of production. Instead of wasting resources on recycling, it would be more prudent to invest that money so that new recipes could be created to better conserve scarce materials in the production process.

Human action guides resources toward the activities that meet the most pressing needs. This movement of resources means that those activities that don't meet pressing needs are relatively expensive. Why? Those activities have to bid for factors of production along with the profitable activities — activities that are meeting the most pressing needs. The profitable activities will drive the cost of those scarce factors upward leading to financial ruin for those activities that don't satisfy the most pressing needs. Forced recycling is such a failed activity.

The concept of lost materials is fraught with errors. Glass headed to the landfills will sit quietly awaiting someone to desire its value. The glass is not going anywhere, and should glass become as dear as gold or even something less dear, you can bet that entrepreneurs would begin mining landfills for all those junked glass bottles, not to mention plastic, aluminum, etc.

The only caveat to this train of thought is what Rothbard wrote about when he discussed psychic profit: the perceived benefit one gets from performing an action, even if that action leads to an economic loss.

Who reaps the real psychic reward from recycling? The statist do-gooder and the obsessed conservationist. Since recycling is now a statist goal, the do-gooders and greens force the cost of recycling on the unsuspecting masses by selling recycling as a pseudo-spiritual activity. In addition to these beneficiaries, there are those who have not considered the full costs of recycling, but their psychic benefit is more ephemeral than real. The other winners are the companies that do the collecting and process the materials, an industry that is sustained by mandates at the local level.

If recycling at a financial loss leads you to greater psychic profit, then recycle, recycle, recycle. Let your personal preferences guide your actions, but don't force your preference schedule on others who have a different preference rank for their own actions. And, do not delude yourself into thinking that you are economizing anything; you are simply increasing your psychic profit at the expense of a more rational investment. But, hey, your actions are your business; just don't force your preferences to be my business.

Oh, and don't tell my children half the recycling story. Remember Hazlitt and turn over the second and third stone before drawing an economic conclusion.

____________
Jim Fedako is a former professional cyclist who lives in Lewis Center, OH.
jfedako@aol.com. Comment on the blog.
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Monday, September 28, 2009

Springer defends the district (no surprise here)

Dear Editor:

Archana Springer challenged my estimate regarding the total cost of PR in the Olentangy school district (Olentangy Valley News, Sept. 23).

Using district-supplied figures, Springer claimed that district PR only cost taxpayers $71,765 in fiscal year 2008. Got that? $71,765. That's an amazing claim considering the district has a communications department headed by a highly-paid director.

In all likelihood, the figure that Springer quoted is only half of the total cost of employment for the department director alone. Throw in all other costs associated with district PR (including the questionable use of consultants, etc) and it is obvious that Springer likes to understate district expenses, to say the very least.

It's one thing to accept district figures at face value. It's another thing altogether to claim such nonsense as fact.

It is important to note that Springer never addressed the central point of my letter: Why is the district buying up Internet domain names in order to game its taxpayers? Hmmm.

In the end, keep in mind that Springer responded in defense of current board president and candidate Julie Feasel. Both Springer and Feasel are looking for things to remain business as usual in the district.

I say rock the boat by rocking the board this November.

Jim Fedako

Sunday, September 27, 2009

District hides the truth ... again!


Dear Editor:

In Hilliard and Worthington, community members have banded together to question expenses in their respective school districts. These folks started websites with similar names: EducateHilliard.org and EducateWorthington.org.

Both of these organization have been active and are respected within their districts. Worthington officials meet with EducateWorthington.org to understand the issues and EducateHilliard.org even endorsed a slate of board candidates.

Now, back to Olentangy. In a move to stifle dissent, the Olentangy district purchased EducateOlentangy.org and linked that site back to the district's own website. Can you imagine that? Our tax dollars were used to directly deceive us -- the taxpayers, nonetheless.

Did board president Julie Feasel push this move in order to stop a possible Olentangy group from endorsing a slate of candidates that does not include her name? Or did superintendent Wade Lucas suggest the purchase in order to keep residents from questioning how he spends local tax dollars?

District PR consumes close to $1 million of our tax money -- and look what we get in return.

In November, the community gets to decide if these murky practices remain business as usual.

Jim Fedako

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Trolling for Morons, and the Bobbleheads Are Biting

An older article of mine. -- Jim


Trolling for Morons, and the Bobbleheads Are Biting
by Jim Fedako

"Is not the State an idol? Is it not like any graven image into which men have read supernatural powers and superhuman capacities? The State can feed us when we are hungry, heal us when we are ill; it can raise wages and lower prices, even at the same time; it can educate our children without cost; it can provide us against the contingencies of old age and amuse us when we are
bored; it can give us electricity by passing laws and improve the game of baseball by regulation. What cannot the State do for us if only we have faith in it? And we have faith. No creed in the history of the world ever captured the hearts and minds of men as has the modern creed of Statism." ~ Frank Chodorov (from
The Need of a Golden Calf


It's that season once again: the presidential campaign. And the candidates are casting about for every possible vote. Sure, the candidates claim that it's all about issues and an educated electorate, but it’s really just a seemingly endless Dr Phil show.

You know what I'm talking about, the politician, playing the good doctor, intently listens to the each pathetic whine and then contemplates the situation. Finally, the healing begins as, yes, government can ease that ill also. A costless solution at that. This scene repeats as long as the moderator allows questions to be asked by the audience.

Questions? Huh! They’re always softballs even when thrown overhand. The candidate feels the pain and effortlessly spins the question back to a government solution. Never, never, does the questioner ask something as simple as, "But, Senator Clinton, who is going to pay for your solution?" No, just like the Dr. Phil guest, the questioner just wants to be heard, to be healed. That the senator added this new cause to her ever-growing litany of programs is enough. It’s all about hurting and healing, and government of course.

And, like a town meeting that goes on too long, the questions become more personal, and more demanding of government as the evening progresses. It's as if Tocqueville's image of America was a dream, and a utopian dream at that. If you want a raise, Obama will guarantee you one. If you want to sue someone, for anything, Edwards is ready for you. If you want to fight foreign wars and extend the empire, Giuliani and Romney will strike up the band and grab the largest flag to be found; let the marching begin.

It gets even better than that. The candidates are ready to take up the Wilsonian vision of America the Great. Because, in candidate-speak, "The world wants the US to lead the charge to end wars, epidemics, and the common cold."

Forgotten is any mention of economics – the scarcity of means relative to ends. Human wants always overshoot resources. That's the human condition. Yet, Hillary, Barak, Rudy, Mitt, and company, will throw reality aside and provide a solution. These folks are so prepared – so ready to lead – that they can propose new solution off the cuff. They are leaders who do not need talking points. They simply take a moment, and the new program is proposed. No, it's promised, guaranteed.

Watching the audience react leads me to divide the typical voter into one of two classes: the moron, and the bobblehead.

The moron is the one who thinks life is a kindergarten class in any public school. He truly believes that nothing has changed since he turned five. Problems such as Billy chewing gum and not having enough for everyone are solved by confiscation and greater poverty. The teacher forces Billy to spit his gum into the wastebasket as the rest of the class nods in approval. How dare someone have more than the rest? Starving but equal is the motto of the day.

And, there is more. The kindergarten class recycles unwanted stuff – paper, plastic, etc. – at a loss to the taxpayer. But that’s OK since the affective emotions for the environment, etc., are encouraged and soon trump any alternate activity for resources wasted in the recycling process. The affective emotions trump common sense. Starving, but at least you feel good.

What about the bobblehead? They sit in awe of both the candidate and peer pressure. It's always easier to hug the tree than to chop it down. You can forget the real needs waiting for factors of production to be released to the economy by the ax; what is unseen is of little value. To be caught chopping when the PC winds say preserve is a certain way to be lopped from the in-crowd. And, the bobblehead cannot have that.

As the moron jumps onboard the candidate’s latest problem and solution, the bobblehead nods in approval. The bobblehead has rational beliefs, but the mob is forming, and things are getting ugly. Once again, better to join than to make a stand.

Therefore, when Clinton says taxes might have to go up to heal the nation, improve its infrastructure, and provide healthcare to rational citizens who chose not to purchase it, the bobbleheads don't even feign disapproval. They sit as the Soviet apparatchik before Stalin; never once giving any sign that the speaker is muddling through nonsense. No, they stay silent, and even cheer when appropriate.

See, the bobblehead knows the role of the citizen in the collective. Remember the kindergarten class, the bobblehead acquiesced to the collective good; a goal of any government-run education system. Standing outside the group is a sign of a troubled youth, and Nurse-Ratched-as-teacher is ready to break the spirit of any individual who does not conform to the mission of the state; lobotomized into the bobble doll that always nods – from only the slightest nudge – in approval of the state and its agents.

Against this stand the lovers of Freedom. They go by many different names, and wear many different hats, yet they simply want to be left alone to produce goods desired by their neighbors, whether across the street or across the ocean. Their light-in-the-darkness is Ron Paul.

Paul does not look for the morons in the crowd when proposing solutions, waiting for the bobbles to bobble. No, he attacks the problems at their source: government. That means he is challenging everything drummed into our heads while we sat, barely awake, through 12 years of government indoctrination.

That many have not yet come around to his candidacy is understandable. It took me almost 20 years to shed public school’s false teachings and golden calves.

Let’s continue to rally behind Paul so that our children, and their children, will live in the land of the free and brave, not the land of the moron and bobblehead.

Copyright © 2007 LewRockwell.com

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Historical revision coming to a school near you

Note that TCI was approved by the Ohio Department of Education as a textbook publisher for 2009. That means Ohio government schools can buy the book below. Is it in your schools? -- Jim



Declaration of Independence gets PC revision for kidsText tells 5th graders: 'All people are created equal'
Posted: September 22, 2009

9:09 pm Eastern
By Chelsea Schilling

© 2009 WorldNetDaily

"History Alive! America's Past"

A textbook publisher known for painting a sunny, non-violent picture of Islamic jihad in its history books has rewritten part of the Declaration of Independence.

The Lone Star Report revealed that a fifth grader in Ector County Independent School District in Odessa, Texas, was told to memorize the Declaration of Independence as printed in "History Alive! America's Past," published by the Teachers' Curriculum Institute, or TCI.

But there was one hitch – an essential word had been altered.

The true text of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, as written by principal author Thomas Jefferson, states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.[Emphasis added]

However, a fifth-grade student reading one of the cover pages of "History Alive! America's Past," will see the following:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. [Emphasis added]

The text contained no visible disclaimer or brackets indicating that the wording had been changed.

According to the Lone Star Report, State Board of Education member Terri Leo blasted the publisher for altering the Declaration of Independence at a Sept. 17 committee meeting.

"Instead of saying 'all men are created equal,' it says 'all people are created equal,'" Leo noted. "Are we going to tell kids what the actual document says or are we going to change words in those documents to be politically correct ... How can you change a historical document and not present it to students as written?"

Texas
law dictates that the Texas Board of Education can reject books based only on "factual errors," and publishers can be fined for uncorrected mistakes in textbooks purchased by the state.

The Texas Education Agency has a page on its website that allows
parents and students to report errors found in textbooks.

Leo said she believes the publisher should face a penalty for altering the wording.

"I think that's a factual error," she said. "That's not what the Declaration of Independence says, and I think [the publisher] should be fined."

TCI representative Natasha Martin told the Lone Star Report that the authentic version of paragraph two in the Declaration of Independence – containing the word "men" rather than "people" – appears in the appendix and the rest of the text.


Martin also said that the new version – published after Texas' adoption – does not use the page with the altered text anymore.

"The parts that are really the instructional materials, the chapter the kids are
reading, the appendix where we refer the kids to read the full Declaration, it is verbatim," Martin told the Lone Star Report.

WND reported earlier when "History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond," also published by the Teachers Curriculum Institute, totally omitted any mention of the violence in a lesson on Islamic jihad.

"Jihad is defined as a struggle within each individual to overcome difficulties and strive to please god. Sometimes it may be a physical struggle for protection against enemies," the book states. It notes that Islam requires "that Muslims should fulfill jihad with the heart, tongue and hand. Muslims use the heart in their struggle to resist evil."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Walter Block and the economics of health

Professor Block demolishes arguments for socialized health care at the Mises University (listen here).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"I do not accept your phraseology"

Harry Reid speaks for the political class (both sides of the aisle). And the bobbleheads -- the sheeple -- from both sides nod their approval.

Having two people rule over one is no better than one ruling over two (Lysander Spooner). Yet, because we have bought the concept of democracy unbounded by a constitution, principles and values, we have allowed a republic to be turned into a totalitarian state rules by the majority.

In spite of what your teachers in government schools taught you about democracy, it is -- when without bounds -- a very unethical and immoral system, to say the least.





Monday, September 21, 2009

Michael Cloud and Teachers Unions

For year, Michael Cloud has been working to reduce taxes in Massachusetts. And who do you is fighting him? The teachers unions, of course -- the government leviathans with their tentacles in our wallets and in our children's minds. -- Jim

From Cloud in Small Government News:

Massachusetts Teachers Unions: Enemy of Taxpayers
by Michael Cloud
(My short essay below is about the Massachusetts Teachers Unions, not individual teachers. Nor is this about the teaching performance of public school teachers. This is exclusively about the actions of the Unions.)


Why am I calling the Massachusetts Teachers Unions the enemy of taxpayers?

Because 30 years of indisputable evidence says so.

In 1980, the Massachusetts Teachers Unions aggressively campaigned against Proposition 2 1/2 - and the movement to roll back and limit property taxes.

In the last 30 years - from 1980 through 2009 - which statewide tax cut ballot initiatives did the Massachusetts Teachers Unions campaign against?

All of them.

Property Tax Cut initiative? Against.

Income Tax Cut Initiatives? Against.

Sales Tax Cut Initiative? Against.

Against all of them.

Against every tax cut ballot initiative for the last 30 years.

PLUS Massachusetts Teachers Unions have spent millions of dollars lobbying the state legislature against tax cuts, against spending cuts - for raising taxes, and for raising spending. Successfully lobbying legislators to increase spending on public schools by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Look at local tax votes. T

here are 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts. Since 1981 - when Proposition 2 ½ went into effect - despite the fact that all of these local governments get an automatic 2 ½% revenue increase every year, they put over 4,551 referendums on city and town ballots to increase Property taxes even more.

How many of these 4,551+ ballot referendums to raise property taxes on homes did the Teachers Unions campaign against? Zero. None. Nada.

State taxes and local taxes. Income taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes.

Massachusetts Teachers Unions consistently campaigned against tax relief - and campaigned for tax hikes. For the last 30 years.

Want to see the smoking gun the Teachers Unions use against taxpayers?

The Massachusetts Teachers Union Website offers Union Members a manual to raising property taxes on our homes. It's called: "Roadmap to Overriding"

Where's the Massachusetts Teachers Union Manual for cutting property taxes on the homes in your city or town?

There isn't one.

The evidence is clear, consistent, and compelling. Massachusetts Teachers Unions are the Enemy of Taxpayers.

Request to readers: If you have information about any income tax cut, sales tax cut, or property tax cut that the Massachusetts Teachers Unions campaigned FOR, please reply to this email with the link or evidence.

Thank you. - Michael Cloud

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Controlling future generations

"More taxes and more birth to death control of everyone. Gotta get those babies before families influence them." -- a reader of this blog (I agree, of course)


Bill aims to improve early-childhood programs
Sunday, September 20, 2009 3:54 AM
By Sam Dillon

THE NEW YORK TIMES



Today's political news
Tucked away in an $87 billion higher-education bill that passed the House last week was a broad new federal initiative aimed not at benefiting college students, but at raising quality in the early-learning and care programs that serve children from birth through age 5.
The initiative, the Early Learning Challenge Fund, would channel $8 billion over eight years to states with plans to improve standards, training and oversight of programs serving infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

The Senate is expected to pass similar legislation this fall. President Barack Obama, who proposed the Challenge Fund during the presidential campaign, is expected sign the legislation in December.

Experts describe the current array of programs serving young children and their families nationwide as a hodgepodge of efforts with little coordination or coherence. Financing comes from a shifting mix of private, local, state and federal money. Programs are run out of storefronts and churches, homes and Head Start centers, public schools and other facilities. Quality is uneven, with some offering stimulating activities, play and instruction but others providing little more than a room and a television.

Oversight varies by state, but most lack any early-childhood structure analogous to the state and local boards of education that govern public schools. A result is that poor children, even many who have access to government-financed early care or learning programs, tend to enter kindergarten less prepared for school than those with wealthier parents.

To qualify for grants, states would have to demonstrate that they have established or improved what the bill calls a "governance structure" for their networks of child-care centers and pre-kindergarten programs. The departments of Education and Health and Human Services would jointly administer the Challenge Fund.

Sharon Lynn Kagan, a professor at Columbia University's Teachers College in New York who has traced the history of U.S. child-care programs back to the early 19th century, wrote a paper last year advocating federal aid to states in building a more coherent and robust early-childhood infrastructure.

"No one bill can solve everything," Kagan said, "but this will move us more than any other piece of legislation toward higher quality in early education, not just more spaces for children."

The Early Learning Challenge Fund would steer $8 billion over eight years
to states.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Luck, Knowledge and Schiff

An article on investing in a hampered economy.


Luck, Knowledge and Schiff
By Jim Fedako


In the casino called “the market,” each new year brings another round at the gaming table. Depending on your knowledge of economics, you are either gambling on luck or investing with knowledge. If luck is your guide, you are rolling dice knowing the house will win in the end. If knowledge is your guide, you have at least a chance of coming home a winner.

Consider this standard movie scene:

A mysterious man enters a casino and begins winning at craps. As evening rolls into night, and night toward dawn, our gambler gathers fans as fast as he collects chips. Should he press his luck, but leave before luck ends, he exits the scene a legend of sorts. Should he throw the dice one time too many, a dealer collects his chips while the groupies walk away, leaving him alone with an empty glass and turned-out pockets.

Despite knowledge of probability that proves otherwise, we tend to assume that a gambler on a streak possesses something we desire. Is it luck? Possibly. But it’s likely that we attribute his success to more than just luck: we attribute it to omniscience.

Let us follow the groupies as they leave the craps table and head over to a blackjack game. Here the scene is a little different. Since blackjack is based on more than just luck, players use their own system to gain an advantage over the house. Not all systems lead to success, but unlike craps, a good blackjack player and his system (if hidden) can win in the long run.

An observer will assume that a winner at blackjack understands the essence of the game. Certainly, luck is a component, but a quick mind for mathematical calculations can slightly mitigate randomness and bring home some serious cash. Of course, if his system is too successful too fast, casino management steps in and shows the player the door.

Finally, let us move from the craps table to the poker table across the floor; a table backed by video screens displaying cable news stations. At the table we see players competing in a high stakes tournament. On the screen we see talking heads competing in a similar but different sort of contest – betting their reputations on financial predictions for the coming year. Of course, both groups of competitors will have winners and losers. But is there any difference between those at the table and those on the screen?

Professional poker has changed as its popularity has grown. Players in tournaments are no longer familiar with their opponents. Young bucks enter the sport online and quickly graduate to the tables of Las Vegas tournaments. In this mix of old and new players, a quick review of the winners reveals that luck plays a large role in selecting the champion.

Randomness rules at the poker table. While there is randomness in every sport, it appears to be the overriding factor in poker. In addition, randomness is one of the reasons that the popularity of poker as a spectator sport has recently tailed off. There are no Tiger Woods of poker, and each tournament crowns a new, relatively unknown champion.

Oh, sure, you have to understand the game being played. And you have to be able to calculate odds quickly and accurately. But since your opponents are not folks you face round after round, tournament after tournament, year after year, you no longer need to be able to read the subtle body language – the tells – of your opponents better than they read yours.

Unlike blackjack, poker players can adopt a system and use it to their advantage, without ever being shown the door. And, of course, success at poker requires the ability to calculate both the odds of the next card as well as the likely moves of all opponents. Since the game is based on an understanding of probability and (to an extent) predictable action, it can be considered a stochastic process – a process that is neither pure chance nor pure deterministic action.

There is a concept called the survivor bias. Briefly, the survivor bias says that an analysis of an event or process tends to be biased toward the survivors – or, the winners. We see the folks at the table during the final draw of poker game and assume they employ some strategy that we can also adopt with success. So we end up making errant conclusions, especially when the winners are – in essence – determined largely by random.

We look to the winning table to see how we should react under similar circumstances – we seek guidance from the supposed omniscient. And we fail by doing so.

Now, let us return our attention to the folks on screen. Like poker, financial markets are also stochastic in nature. In order to mitigate inherent randomness, analyst should view markets based on a well-developed epistemology – in this instance, an epistemology based on the science of economics.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes of the young bucks of finance: seemingly invincible lads who quickly rise to the top of the investment game – winners one day, losers the next. They play like our mysterious fellow at the craps table above. While they are rolling with luck on their side, everyone wants a piece of their action. Once luck runs dry, the lads are cast aside, vilified and forgotten.

However, there is more to the investment game than just luck. Or, there can be. A wise lad will invest like a poker player, using a system based on a thorough understanding of probability and likely action. Nevertheless, a black swan can ruin the run and send the lad packing.

Of course, the more cards you see, the better your odds at the card table – if you use that knowledge as
action knowledge and not just data points of information knowledge. The same holds true for investors; the more action knowledge they have, the greater their chance of success, in spite of lurking black swans.

Consider a panel of financial commentators this time last year debating the likely scenarios for 2008. Predictions are made that span the continuum of possibilities. But one man stands out: Peter Schiff. Schiff alone is predicting a sharp downturn, and his fellow panelists are smirking on the split screen.

Fast forward and Schiff is the clear winner. But we need to ask these important questions: Was Schiff’s accuracy the result of luck? Did random events conspire to support his prediction? Or, was Schiff’s accuracy based on a greater knowledge and understanding of the market and government interventions?

I would say that Schiff noted the black swan on the horizon and acted on that information. He was not (and is not) omniscient, he simply applied his understanding of economics to connect obvious data points. And he yelled “black swan” for all to hear. But most financial commentators – the talking heads – just laughed: There goes Schiff again, connecting dots and finding black swans.

While it is true that most card players have a system, the underlying factor is luck. Financial commentators also have their own system, with most systems relying more on luck than on knowledge. Yes, there was some positive news despite the downturn in late 2007. However, to connect those dots and see a likely upturn is to ignore the more ominous ones in plain view. Yet many folks were willing to bet once again on their last hand, as if a reshuffle never occurs.

Of course, luck does play a role in financial predictions. However, more times than not, luck is mitigated by the fundamentals. And Schiff based his predictions on the fundamentals, and a strong understanding of Austrian economics.

So, Schiff won. When you replay his predictions, you will see that he stated what was likely to occur and why. His reasoning is sound if you accept the Austrian approach. If you tend toward any other school of economic thought, Schiff’s reasoning is spurious at best. The fact that he won should be enough for investors to review his system. But most do not.

Unlike a poker player looking for any advantage, and willing to consider any system that wins the day, financial commentators hold onto systems because their systems are based on politics, not economics.

Was Schiff just lucky? No. Schiff won because he analyzed market data based on a comprehensive understanding of Austrian economics. And, amazingly, the house still allows financial players at the table to use his system – or any similar system.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The "troubling and problematic" activities of Todd Hanks

Troubling and problematic? I'll say. -- Jim

From The Delaware Gazette:

Hanks hears back from Ohio Ethics Commission

Thursday, September 17, 2009

By ANDREW TOBIAS
Staff Writer

Delaware County Commissioner Todd Hanks’ employment for a private engineering firm is theoretically legal, as long as he does not use his influence as a commissioner to benefit the company, according to a newly released legal opinion from the Ohio Ethics Commission.

Hanks has been employed by CEC since shortly after being appointed to the county commissioners board in January. His part-time, $50,000 a year job is to develop professional contacts and refer them to CEC. He is paid a commission based on actual work that is performed as a result of his reference.

Hanks asked the OEC for an opinion a few weeks after he began working for CEC. He said the OEC’s opinion echoed an opinion from the county prosecutor’s office that said the CEC job and his job as a commissioner were compatible. Hanks has also abstainedfrom votes regarding CEC work.


“(The opinion indicates) I’ve been doing everything legal and above board since day one,” he said.
However, Hanks’ actions since taking a job with CEC raises questions, multiple legal sources have told the Gazette.

Hanks in May invited employees from CEC to two development meetings between county officials, Village of Sunbury officials and a Sunbury landowner. At the meeting, county economic development director Gus Comstock said he would guide Sunbury through the process, and said he would see if the county could contribute money to the project. Hanks brought CEC employees to the meeting. He said he was trying to find them business with the landowner.

Neither the Sunbury officials nor the landowner knew Hanks worked for CEC, and a sign-in sheet at the second meeting shows Hanks signed in as a Delaware County commissioner.

The advisory opinion released by the OEC this month states that public officials are “prohibited from approaching other public officials or employees, while engaged in his official duties, to discuss the services that his private employer can provide.”

Ethics law requires elected officials with private jobs to make it clear whom they are representing, particularly in settings where that may be unclear. Hanks must also avoid representing CEC in any manner before any county agency, and avoid taking part in any discussions or votes that would affect CEC in any way, the opinion states. These restrictions apply to deliberations in public meetings as well as in non-public sessions.

Since Hanks asked for the opinion in February, the OEC’s response only addresses his employment in generalities, and not any actions he may have taken subsequently, the opinion states.

Larry Long, the executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, said it is not uncommon for county commissioners to hold outside employment, especially in more rural counties.

Long said he tells county commissioners to err on the side of caution and to stay away if discussions between public entities even remotely involve their private employers.

“You have to be ultra, ultra careful,” Long said. “Not only with ethics law, but there’s also the issue of perception, which is just as important to the public.”

Geoffrey Mearns, dean of Cleveland State University’s Marshall College of Law, agreed that the court of public opinion may not look kindly upon Hanks’ employment.

Mearns said while it wasn’t possible to determine whether or not Hanks violated ethics law without more information, he called Hanks’ activities at the Sunbury meeting “ troubling and problematic.”

“We should hold our public officials to a higher ethical standard than “Is this conduct illegal?” he said.

A commissioner’s high profile would make it difficult to distinguish when they are representing the county or when they are representing their private entity, particularly at a meeting with county officials, Mearns said.

“It’s not as if you come to one of those meetings and you put on your (consulting) hat,” he said. “County people know that you’re going to be sitting with them in a budget meeting.

A phone message left with a CEC office manager was not returned as of press time.

atobias@delgazette.com

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dilbert and IP

A recent post of mine over on the Blog at Mises.org:









Dilbert and IP

Jim Fedako



Ouch!.

Dilbert.com

Monday, September 14, 2009

Welcome Frederick Engels Jr.

It is not often that I get the full-blown Marxist comment. But when I do, it is front page news -- certainly not something to be buried in some back page comment string.

Engles was the reluctant German industrialist who funded Marx (a man who held only one job, and a part-time job at that) for years. Without Engels, no Marxist nonsense.

Now we have Engels Jr. commenting on this blog.

According to him:
You really need to watch what limbs you climb out on. I'm a business owner and yes I gain at the expense of the labor of my employees. I provided capital and my own labor. They provide their labor and I reimburse them at a mutually agreeable rate. I benefit by the surplus of value created by their labor.I also participate fully in my Society and I reap the benefits of that Society. The cost is I pay taxes on the surplus of value created by my employees. (profit)
Surplus value. And from a supposed businessman, nonetheless. I mean, you rarely get the businessman propounding the labor theory of value anymore. How quaint. How very Marxist.

So our Engles suffers from self-imposed class guilt. Now he can either be an acting individual (a man) and take matters into his own hands – he can pay his employees more if that relieves his guilt. Or he can seek political means to make everyone else pay for his supposed transgressions.

Like all sheeple, he chooses the collectivist route and works to subject us all to his dastardly ends.

So, Engles Jr., who is your Marx Jr.?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Agreeing with OSBA: say it ain't so

OSBA (Ohio School Boards Association) doesn't believe that property owners should have to pay more taxes in order to guarantee the long-term solvency of the State Teachers Retirement Service. Neither do I.

Look, when times were good and STRS was reaping fantastic returns on their investments, money flowed to retired teachers as STRS expanded and increased retirement benefits. Not a penny went to the taxpayer.

Now that the current financial downturn has hit STRS, teachers and retired teachers have the nerve to ask us for more. Amazing. They never shared their gains with us, but they have no problem pushing their losses back onto our shoulders -- with their hands deeper into our wallets.

Keep in mind that this worldview is the worldview of public education. And it is the worldview that is slowly destroying this nation. It is nothing less than greed -- greed that is fostered by government and the ballot box.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Kristof's Theory of the State

A recent post of mine over on the Blog at Mises.org:









Kristof's Theory of the State

Jim Fedako



Buried deep in this article is Nicholas D. Kristof implicit theory on how the state came into being. According to Kristof, "Until the mid-19th century, firefighting was left mostly to a mishmash of volunteer crews and private fire insurance companies. In New York City, according to accounts in The New York Times in the 1850s and 1860s, firefighting often descended into chaos, with drunkenness and looting."

So we replaced firefighters who loot at the scene with those who loot at the ballot box. And this is an improvement? Hmmm.

Note: I do not challenge the theory that the state came into being when the various looting mobs (or the other forms of muscle) morphed into a looting bureacracy.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Yes, Virginia, there will be death panels

A recent post of mine over on the Blog at Mises.org:









Yes, Virginia, there will be death panels

Jim Fedako



Death panels? Of course there will be death panels when the deal is done. Not in iterations one or two, when legal alternatives exists. But in the end, under total state control, death panels will exist -- they must exist.

A death panel implies an agency that functions as the final arbiter of life and death. Such a panel can only exist where no legal alternatives are available. In the first go-around, some agency (or agencies) will have the power and mission to limit care under certain conditions -- even the state must accept a world of scarcity. However, folks will still have market alternatives. These alternatives will not be free -- they never are. But they will exist, nonetheless.

Of course, once state control is complete, the agency will function as a death panel, or a life panel -- depending on your viewpoint, of course.

The agency will likely have a doublespeak name, something like the People's Health Agency. The agency will be deemed a provider of healthcare, not a denier of the same. So, for some, the agency will not be a death panel. But for many, this agency will limit lifesaving care. It will have to. For these folks, the agency will not provide. And with no alternative available, the agency's decision will be final, and it will be fatal.

The talk of death panels just around the corner is overblown rhetoric. But those very same panels are just over the horizon, on the path sought by many.

My short term fear is not death panels per se. My fear is the collective's fleeting memory of liberty. Just as folks today cannot imagine my state without an income tax (though the tax is only 37 years old), folks tomorrow will soon forget that the market can supply healthcare. And that means I will watch my children move one step closer toward total state control of their healthcare -- their lives. And that scares me.

Note: Today we have a model for a death panel: the FDA. This organization keeps lifesaving drugs from the market -- all in the name of health and safety. The belief that the state will not crack a few eggs to benefit the collective omelet is utter nonsense.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A New Website

Even as the district wasted our tax dollars by purchasing EducateOlentangy.org, another site was coming online. RESPONSIBLE OLENTANGY CITIZENS (or ROC) is up and running. Take a look.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Final Word on the Obama Speech

According to Wade-O:
At this time, the President’s message has been reviewed and found to have ties to district wide curriculum and will be made available in its entirety to all students on Friday, September 11.
Of course, everything ties to the district's vaunted maps -- including perverse books and magazine articles, you name it.

Oh, and every expenditure is for the kids -- every penny, including each of the 30,000,000 pennies Wade-O lifts from our wallets each year.

It's all good, that which is flowing from the altruistic and selfless staff. Wade-O, the board, administration, and the unionized staff are all about good intentions and the kids.

Trust 'em. They are your government school system.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Asking Them to Calculate: and watching them squirm

A recent post of mine over on the Blog at Mises.org:









Asking Them to Calculate: and watching them squirm

Jim Fedako



It's a lazy September afternoon and your doorbell rings. You open the door to a nervous, yet cocky, smartly dressed man wearing an American flag on his lapel. One look and you realize it's that time of year in Ohio: It's the beginning of the local election cycle.

The beauty of this season is that the candidate at your door is begging for your vote. And because of that, he will attempt to answer any question you pose -- with a smile, nonetheless.

My favorite question for the wanna-be township trustee is this: When the fire chief comes to your meeting with a study purporting to show that the correct number of firefighters per 1000 residents is x, and the current staffing level is y per 1000 residents (with y being necessarily less than x), what are you going to do? [1]

Ask the question and watch him squirm. Of course, you have to keep the wanna-be from spinning off subject, so be prepared to ask follow up questions in order to get to the answer.

But you already knew the answer. You are simply trying to get him to recognize and accept that which is anathema to him: Calculation is impossible for government. [2]

Oh, sure, the wanna-be will insist that, based on his experience, he will ask harder, more probing questions than his opponent. But he will never be able to give you a bottom line to evaluate against.

He cannot calculate. And he now knows it.

Notes:

1. Here is a truism of local politics that you will need to know: Bureaucrats build the strawman proposal that becomes the starting point for all discussions and debates. Anything less than the strawman proposal is a reduction in service, anything greater is a benefit to the taxpayer.

2. The same holds for the candidate looking to be a school board member or county commissioner. Despite what they claim, they cannot calculate and cannot provide a solution to the problem that is government.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Wade Lucas: Manipulating the Masses

Regardless of their value, Hilliard and Worthington have community-run websites that question their respective school districts. These are sites organized and run by folks in the community. And they go by these names: educatehilliard.org and educateworthington.org. Again, regardless of their value, these are community-run sites.

Now, venture over to educateolentangy.org. Wade-O and his propagandist over at the Olentangy School District recently bought their domain in order to play Olentangy residents. In other words, taxpayers are once again being played with their very own, hard-earned tax dollars.

Has Olentangy no shame?

Friday, September 04, 2009

Hiding Behind IP

A recent post of mine over on the Blog at Mises.org:









Hiding Behind IP

Jim Fedako



According to data from the Ohio Department of Education, 82% of Ohio public school students attend school districts that showed academic growth (as defined by the state) during the last school year which was significantly (statistically speaking -- defined as one standard error) above expected (or average) growth.

Add in the students who attended districts within one standard error of the mean and the state can claim that 91% of students attended districts achieving at or above expected growth.

Amazing institutions, these government schools.

So you decide to question the results. Tough luck. The state's value added calculation is protected by IP laws. That's right. The state can make an outrageous claim without being challenged. Nice.

Note:

Here is the FAQ that has to calm the concerned -- value added is just like the CPI. Too complicated for the masses, but valid and reliable, nonetheless. Trust them. They are your government, you know.

From the service that assists Ohio with its value added calculation:

The value-added methodology seems complicated. How can people understand the measure?
While the statistical methodology used for value-added analysis is complex, the data produced are valid, reliable and presented in easy-to-read charts and graphs. Understanding this methodology can be compared to understanding the statistics behind the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures the change in the cost of living between two periods of time. Few people understand how to calculate the CPI, but many people take advantage of the information and use it to make decisions in their daily lives. If educators understand the information derived from the value-added reports, they can use the information to make sound decisions about improving student achievement.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Talk about indoctrination

From a reader:

"'On September 8 Obama will talk to all public school children. There is a whole program set up. I wonder if he's going to teach them the Obama song those children sang during the campaign. You know the one with the angelic voices singing Obama will save the world.'

One more reason to homeschool."

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

There is something to enjoy here

I just love it when a union and its own staff union fight over wages. Why? Because these battles prove that the so-called fight for a fair wage has nothing to do with a fair wage. The fight is simply just the means for one legally-protected unionized group to gain an advantage over all others.

Look, the OEA -- the epitome of union hacks -- can't even agree on wages with their own laborers.

Folks, it ain't about the kids. Nor is it about a fair wage or similar nonsense. It's about using the power of the state to justify greed.

From our good friend over at the
Education Intelligence Agency:

2) Ohio Education Association Staff Prepare to Strike, South Carolina Staff Warned of Disaster. As I type this, the employees of the Ohio Education Association are less than 10 hours from going out on strike. OEA and its staff unions have had bitter relations in the past, resulting in a strike in 1997, a lawsuit in 2005, and a last-minute settlement in 2006. I'll refrain from making too much of this right now, since last-minute settlements are fairly common in NEA staff labor disputes, but I'll have more tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, negotiations between the Sou th Carolina Education Association and its staff are souring, with the staff union president asserting SCEA executives told employees "that the South Carolina Education Association is two years from closing its doors." This may be a negotiating tactic, but SCEA is a mess, and the last time an NEA state affiliate was in such bad shape, the national union ceded it to the New York State United Teachers. Unfortunately there is no AFT affiliate in South Carolina.

No NEA state affiliate has ever "closed its doors," and it won't happen in South Carolina as long as there is dues money flowing in from members in New Jersey, Illinois and California to keep the doors open. The thing is watch for is when the have-not affiliates start to outnumber the haves.

Poirot tells it like it is

From a recent edition of the Email Update from the Future of Freedom Foundation:

Monday, August 31, 2009
Paying tribute to coercionists is indeed a sorry way to operate a business. But citizens who will let their own government close the market, sell protectionism to powerful lobby groups, and otherwise abandon its principled role, scarcely deserve a better fate, for they have given no thought and no support to freedom.
— Paul L. Poirot