Sunday, August 28, 2005

Stupid Design

In today's paper, I marveled at the depth of rationalization needed to come up with the concept of Intelligent Design. It's basically that "this [fill in the noun] couldn't exist randomly so it had to be designed with the influence of some outside intelligence."

Here's the problem: a lot of living species have existed and then not. Those designs may not have been too intelligent.

Well, that's because life is moving toward its intended design.

Here's the problem: some living species have existed virtually unchanged since the beginning of life.

Well, that's because they exist to promote the advancement of life toward its intended design.

Here's the problem: no one can say what that intended design might be. Is man made in the image of God? Literally? Figuratively? Allegorically?

What if intelligent life exists someplace else that looks like a cross between a slug and and dandelion? Is that intelligent design. Or are we just talking about life's processes on a molecular level? Mix enough chemicals together and get a "design".

Here's the problem: we just don't know enough about the intelligence behind the design... okay, we know nothing about the intelligence behind the design... okay, we presume there is an intelligence that we know nothing about behind the design....

Science doesn't purport to explain what lies "beyond". We let our imaginations do that with wild projections of ourselves unfettered by limitations. God was created in man's image. God gets angry, God seeks justice, God loves, God even dies for us. So we get angry and seek justice for God because we are protected by God's love even when we die for God. Kaboom! another martyr for God. See the design? Oops, strayed from the subject.

Our logic tells us that something could not have come from nothing. There had to be something before something. We can't imagine what that might be, so we project mightily. An intelligent, creative, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, to-be-feared God.

And He (or She... got to have some gender politics in here) designed everything the way it should be... because it could not have happened randomly over 4 billion years... as we see it. Well, maybe it's not our logic in play here. Maybe it's not and issue of chance versus design. Maybe it's just our lack of intelligence.


Friday, August 26, 2005

Ethnic Divisiveness - Uninviting Guests

Our friends have had some guests for quite awhile, but things are not working out very well. Their guests were really not their friends, but some people in need. Our friends had room for them and helped them get jobs. But it became apparent that these guests were really not all that compatible with the way our friends lived.

First it started out with some comments about our friends' lifestyle. Then their guests kept to themselves and even avoided our friends. Finally, their guests began breaking things and threatening our friends' family. It got pretty ugly. So, despite their best altruistic intentions, our friends have told their guests to leave.

Now, some of our friends' neighbors are actually criticizing our friends. They say our friends' action isn't fair. These neighbors say you can't just kick people out because of a few disagreements after you committed to helping them.

I don't know about you, but, to me, being a Good Samaritan doesn't mean you have to take abuse later. Oh well, maybe I just don't have a good understanding of what is fair and right... ethical, if you will.

The whole story appeared in our neighborhood newsletter. Take a look.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Excessive Spending - As Low As It Can Go....

Fed's Moskow says higher rates "appropriate"
Wed Aug 24, 2005 05:59 PM ET

Moskow said the U.S. jobless rate of 5.0 percent in June and July "is about as low as the unemployment rate can go on a sustained basis."

Between falling unemployment and rising capacity utilization, "we've come quite close to eliminating what had been a significant output gap," he said.
Except of course...

By Tim Martin
Associated Press

Michigan's unemployment rate edged up to 7 percent in July, the state said Wednesday.

The seasonally adjusted rate is up from 6.8 percent in June, which was second-highest in the nation behind Mississippi. The national jobless rate for July was 5 percent.

But, then, Michigan is just one of those manufacturing states... you know... where they build stuff... things we can buy from China now... not real jobs like... you know... real ones... you know?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Environmental Extremism - It's a step...

From the New York Times by Anthony DePalma:

9 States in Plan to Cut Emissions by Power Plants

Officials in New York and eight other Northeastern states have come to a preliminary agreement to freeze power plant emissions at their current levels and then reduce them by 10 percent by 2020, according to a confidential draft proposal.

The cooperative action, the first of its kind in the nation, came after the Bush administration decided not to regulate the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Once a final agreement is reached, the legislatures of the nine states will have to enact it, which is considered likely.

Enforcement of emission controls could potentially result in higher energy prices in the nine states, which officials hope can be offset by subsidies and support for the development of new technology that would be paid for with the proceeds from the sale of emission allowances to the utility companies....

Emissions would be capped at 150 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, a figure that is about equal to the average emissions in the highest three years between 2000 and 2004. Each of the nine states would have its own cap. New York's, at 65.6 million tons, would be the largest. Vermont's would be the smallest, with 1.35 million tons.

The caps would be enforced starting in 2009. By that time, restricting emissions to levels prevailing now would, in effect, require a reduction of emissions relative to power output, because electric generation is expected to increase between now and then. The 150 million-ton cap would be sustained through 2015, when reductions would be required, reaching 10 percent in 2020. The Kyoto protocol freezes emissions at the 1990 level and imposes a 7 percent reduction in 2012.
That's a very commendable effort. However, I did not see any mention of the approvals for the new nuclear power generating plants needed to achieve this goal and, by the way, the goal of the "hydrogen" economy. Oh, wait, that's because there wasn't any. I remember how it works:

Monday, August 22, 2005

Starting Out; Ending Up

It became real yesterday. My two younger sons started the process of moving their possessions out of our home. It will take a week or so before everything is complete; they can't move in until their internet connections are set up... they need the connections for work, but I suspect that they couldn't go "cold turkey" for a week without it.

They have their lists of things to do and so do we. After 25 years in one place, there are items that need attention... especially the boys' bedrooms and bathroom. But we've also go a list of "could you help us" items that need to be added to our list. That's good. We are glad that they want us to be involved in this major step. They will be living within shouting distance of each other, so we know that they will help each other through the daily needs. We'll be around... just in case.

Their excitement is contagious. It's a real effort to keep my wife from charging in to take over. She means well and has good ideas, but this is their day, not ours. We've given them everything they need to make good decisions and handle any mistakes. It's time to stand back and watch.

Their beginning as independent adults marks our end as guardians and protectors... but we'll always be parents.

Their new homes.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Education Failure - The Cost of Failure

This story has been widely circulated over the past few days. Should it be a surprise? Should it be a surprise for those who claim that America's future is our intellectual strength versus the rest of the world? Should it be a surprise for those who say we should not worry about the loss of our manufacturing jobs because we will be the source of new research and ideas for the world? You decide.

An excerpt is below; click on the link for the full article.

Ph.D.s in America on the decline

August 17, 2005

The United States in 1970 produced more than half of the world's Ph.D.s. But if current patterns continue, the United States will be lucky to produce just 15 percent of the world's doctorates by 2010.

"We don't know exactly why this is happening. But we do know that there are financial issues involved, including the increased debt burden that American students are facing," said Debra Stewart, president of the Washington-based Council of Graduate Schools.
Check out what I wrote on December 20, 2004. You decide.

Is the cost of pursuing an education (much less a Ph.D.) too much? You decide.
Prepaid college tab soars 20%
Last September, I wrote the following letter:
September 14, 2004

Rep. John Boehner, Chairman
Committee on Education and the Workforce
U. S. House of Representatives
2181 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-4527

Subject: Expanding America’s Intellectual Resources

As the father of three sons, two of whom have Masters Degrees (Engineering and Computer Science) with the third approaching his Baccalaureate, I am concerned about the situation within the American education system.

Increasingly, the ranks of our universities' PhD programs are being populated with students from other nations. While diversity of opinion, experience, and skills are valuable, I believe that such diversity already exists within the tens of millions of American-born potential PhDs. The fact that a company such as Microsoft feels compelled to seek Chinese PhDs for their research staff while, at the same time, U.S. universities’ PhD programs are so heavily populated with foreign students sends a message to me that our system of education is failing to focus on American intellectual resources: U.S. citizen students. (

The point of my concern is this: the U.S. is losing manufacturing and technology jobs to lower cost labor suppliers, and the argument is that this is not serious because these jobs will be replaced by better paying ones based on the U.S. becoming the wellspring of new ideas. There is no guarantee that the foreign PhD students will stay here when booming economies in their native lands offer them the chance to become part of the elite there. I would argue that without support for creating the home-grown expertise, the U.S. eventually may be relegated to just another country that had a glorious past.

I propose a simple incentive to create a more favorable environment for U.S. students: allow students who are U.S. citizens at the time they enter a PhD program and who work in the U.S. for five years immediately after receiving their PhDs a tax break. This tax break would be very simple: average the last five years of income prior to receiving the PhD and then average that with the income received over the next five years. For example, if the average income during the last five years of the PhD program was $20,000 and the income over each of the five years following was $100,000 (for simplicity), then the taxable income before any other adjustments would be $120,000/2 or $60,000. At a 25% tax rate, that would be an annual incentive of $10,000 ($100,000 minus $60,000 times 0.25). Over five years, that would be a savings of $50,000 which could be used to offset some of the costs of pursuing a PhD.

This incentive could well be the difference between a U.S. student deciding to pursue a PhD or deciding that the burden of pursuing one is too great.
Is it time to take some positive steps toward strengthening our future? You decide.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Ethnic Divisiveness - We'll Show 'Em


Michigan State Trooper Charged with Murder

By Michael Rosenfield
Web produced by Christine Lasek
May 9, 2005

A Michigan State Trooper is being charged with murder for a controversial shooting outside of a Detroit bar. The trooper is being asked to turn himself in.

Family members of the victim say they are relieved that a murder charge is now being brought against the trooper. Investigators say this case has taken several weeks because it is always difficult to investigate a police agency.

Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced Monday morning that Michigan State Trooper Jay Morningstar will be charged in the April 14th incident that left a homeless man dead in the street.

According to Worthy, "After a thorough investigation, we are charging Trooper Jay Morningstar with one count of murder in the 2nd degree, and a separate count of manslaughter, intentionally aimed without malice."
What was missing in that news account?


Trooper held in homeless man's death

$200,000 bond set; accounts of shooting differ about details

May 11, 2005

The two departments have given conflicting details.

A court file says Williams, whose family said he had mental problems, was harassing customers inside the bar and broke two windows while being escorted from the bar.

Detroit police said in a report that Williams had his pants down around his knees and walked toward Morningstar before the trooper shot him.

But Sgt. Mike Herendeen, president of the Michigan State Police Troopers Association, said Williams was not partially naked. He said Williams' baggy pants were sliding down as he approached Morningstar, and his hands were in his waist area.

Morningstar said: "Stop. Show me your hands," at least twice, according to Herendeen.

"This is not something he wanted to get involved in that night," Herendeen said. "Certainly this is devastating. He's charged with a serious crime for essentially doing his job and doing it the way he was trained to do it."


Friday, May 13, 2005

Trooper pays price for Detroit's incompetence

By Frank Beckmann / Special to The Detroit News

Frank Koss sits in the Beaubien Street Saloon, right next door to the Old Detroiter. As a pseudo-doorman, he knew Magoo (nickname for the man who was killed), all too well.

"He'd come by every other night at 9 o'clock, and I'd give him 5 bucks to keep him out of here," Koss told me. "By midnight, he was a different guy."

And what made him different? The alcohol he would buy with the money he scrounged from Koss and anyone he could panhandle. Koss says Magoo was as "mean as a snake when he got a snoot full."

He tells of Magoo threatening a couple with a screwdriver in a nearby parking lot one night "when they wouldn't give him any money."

Pointing toward Beaubien Street, Koss says Magoo was known, without provocation, to "attack moving cars out in the street. If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'!"

Jim Steel works behind the bar at Beaubien Street Saloon. Still puzzled by the events of that night, he says "I just don't understand why you don't listen to a cop."

Let's set aside for the moment the obvious involving Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy -- that she overcharged -- and move to another contemptible part of this tragedy.

At Trooper Morningstar's arraignment this week, Magistrate Sidney Barthwell Jr. (who was repremanded formally when he was a lawyer - Barthwell Jr., Sidney-Notice-NOTICE OF REPRIMAND-98-237-GA- 03/01/1999) called the defendant a danger to the community and set his bond at a staggering $200,000 at the request of Worthy's office.

This courtroom scene was pure grandstanding.

Noted Detroit criminal attorney Stephen Fishman told me, "I have represented many police officers charged with homicide. I have never had the prosecution request, nor the judge set, anything other than personal bond in those cases."


Let's look at what's in play here:
  • The incident occurred around 1:00 am in Detroit
  • The man who was killed is black and on other occasions was violent and erratic
  • The officer is white
  • The prosecutor is black
  • The judge is black and was reprimanded as a lawyer in 1999 - maybe not the straightest arrow in the quiver???
I really hate to think that this a case of "We'll show 'em!" This really should not be a racial statement by Kim Worthy or Sidney Barthwell Jr. State Troopers are black and white; they do their jobs based on the law, not on racial bias. But, I get the sense that this prosecution of Officer Morningstar is about racial grandstanding... so much so that I just mailed a contribution to:




CANTON, MI 48187

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Excessive Spending - Inflation

Wholesale Inflation Jumps on Gas Prices

Okay, that's no surprise.

Fuel prices, economy feed slump in tourism

Okay, that's no surprise.

Treasuries Fall; Inflation Report Fuels Speculation for Fed Rate Increases

Okay, that's no surprise.

See, now here is where most of us get a little bent out of shape.

  1. Energy prices go up making the necessities of life more expensive
  2. We give up the discretionary spending such as travel for fun
  3. The Fed raises interest rates making everything even more expensive
That way, not only do we have to scrimp to get along, we can suffer to get along. Businesses can tank, jobs can disappear, people can lose their investments, and things generally get worse.

But, we've addressed the issue of high energy costs... or have we? Remember, most of those costs are related to demand for oil in Asia. So, we have to keep importing more Asian products which are cheaper than American-made products to keep the prices down and that adds to energy demand in Asia which increases the cost of oil which ... okay, we keep going round and round... until things get so bad that we stop buying things from anyplace and then, once we have achieved worldwide recession, we can get the oil prices to fall.

Such supreme intelligence to come up with that strategy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Ethnic Divisiveness - Same Planet... Different World

From the New York Times - by Dexter Filkins:

The prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari; the president, Jalal Talabani; and Hussein Shahrastani, a leading Shiite member of the National Assembly, all described their disagreements as minor ones that would be solved by the new deadline, this coming Monday.

"There are no issues without solutions," Mr. Talabani said at a news conference. "The points left are very few, such as the role of Islam, human rights, and the rights of women. There is a general agreement on them, but we need to word them precisely."

Minor... indeed.

Looking back, on July 10 I wrote:
That said, it is unlikely that there will be any negative reaction coming out of the Muslim world... more likely a positive reaction to the murders in England.

What are the long term effects? I think that the Europeans will begin to resist further immigration of Muslims. It is likely that Turkey's efforts to join the European Union will be hurt further. Muslims living in Europe will find themselves the targets of hate crimes.
Since then, there has been a denial of re-entry into England of a particularly vocal Islamic cleric.

It is beginning.

Read further:
Muslims seem to have forgotten that the recent decades of Western European tolerance is really not part of their history... quite the contrary. First Spain, then Denmark, now Britain; these are strategic mistakes by the Islamic radicals.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Excessive Spending - The Cost of Inefficiency

Over the past decade or so, I have written numerous letters to various government officials and departments concerning one needless and wasteful problem: incorrect traffic signal progression.

For those of you not familiar with the term, the concept is reasonably simple: the traffic signals along a route should change in a sequence and timing that corresponds to a vehicle traveling at the posted speed. If the posted speed is 40 mph, then you should be able to travel at 40 mph and have the traffic signals remain green. Obviously, there are factors that affect the actual progression of traffic through the signals including too many vehicles on the road, vehicles traveling too fast or too slow causing unnecessary stopping or delays, and emergency situations.

In every case, when I have written to the officials with a specific problem, I have received either no response, a snooty response or one that says the problem is really, really, really difficult, but every available person is working on the problem. In truth, millions of dollars have been spent on the issue, but with strangely little improvement.

In the Detroit Metropolitan area, there are about 5 million people... maybe 6 million. If there are 1 million vehicles on the road each day and they travel, on average, 30 miles per day, that is 30 million miles traveled in just this area. Typically, stop and start travel consumes about 30% more gasoline than steady-speed travel. Let's assume for argument sake that of the 30 million miles traveled, 15 million miles are over roads controlled by traffic signals. Let's further assume that the average mileage for these vehicles is 15 mpg (we have small cars to large trucks).

That gives us 1 million gallons of fuel used for the roads with traffic signals.

Now let's presume that the traffic signals are poorly timed for half of those miles. That's 1/2 million gallons of fuel used. If the mileage were improved to 19.5 mpg by steady-speed driving over those roads, then instead of 500,000 gallons of fuel used, the consumption would be 385,000 gallons. That is a savings of 115,000 gallons @ $2.30 per gallon or $264,000 PER DAY.

That's almost $100,000,000 of waste per year or about 42,000,000 gallons of fuel used unnecessarily JUST IN THE DETROIT AREA. Even if these estimates are somewhat high, the message is obvious:

It would seem that somewhere we can find $1 or 2 million to address this problem just a little more.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Education Failure - We can't discriminate

We go through most of our lives discriminating in one way or another:

Main Entry: dis·crim·i·nate
Pronunciation: dis-'kri-m&-"nAt
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): -nat·ed; -nat·ing
Etymology: Latin discriminatus, past participle of discriminare, from discrimin-, discrimen distinction, from discernere to distinguish between -- more at DISCERN
transitive senses
1 a : to mark or perceive the distinguishing or peculiar features of b : DISTINGUISH, DIFFERENTIATE <discriminate hundreds of colors>
2 : to distinguish by discerning or exposing differences; especially : to distinguish from another like object
intransitive senses
1 a : to make a distinction <discriminate among historical sources> b : to use good judgment
2 : to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit <discriminate in favor of your friends> <discriminate against a certain nationality>

© 2005 Merriam-Webster, Incorporated
It is interesting that, in today's politically correct world, the secondary meaning has become the primary meaning. Instead of "using good judgment" we are treating others unfairly (not on individual merit). Or is it that we are not allowed to treat individuals on the basis of their merit and, therefore, cannot use good judgement.

My sister just completed her Masters Degree in Education with specializations in "Special" and Deaf education. She was pointing out how the "No Child Left Behind" act was unfair because schools that "mainstream" special or deaf education students are measured the same way as schools that educate those students separately or, in the case of private/charter schools, refuse admittance to those students on the basis of not having the necessary resources for those students.

Whereupon, I pointed out that it is that very politically correct approach to education that says that we can't be discriminating (use good judgment) because it is discriminating (measuring one on the basis of ability or merit) that the government now feels compelled to treat/measure all student progress the same regardless of particular students' special needs or limitations.

My sister acknowledged the "double-edged sword."

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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
It was beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are.
- O. Henry
... The Government is on course for an embarrassing showdown with the European Union, business groups and environmental charities after refusing to guarantee that billions of pounds of revenue it stands to earn from carbon-permit trading will be spent on combating climate change.
The Independent (UK)

Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)