Archive for the 'are you kidding?' Category

City of Highland Park: Working For You

10150402_17_xl.jpg

The photo above was take in October of 2004. The below image is, presumably, somewhat newer.


View Detroit Photos in a larger map

Causality, fear, independent thought, and abandoned houses

07160903_16.jpg

The final topic of misconception is causality. I see assumptions of cause being used far too frequently as proof of an ideology or belief, when in fact no such causal relationship exists. Two things may exist at the same time, and yet neither caused the other. You would think, with all that we know, and the all that we have achieved, as a society, that we’d be able to move beyond ridiculous assumptions due to an assumed cause and effect relationship. But, of course, such discussions and beliefs would require reasoning, facts, proof, and testing. All of which are time consuming, and may very well prove the opposite of what we feel comfortable in believing.

Causality

From Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:

1 : a causal quality or agency
2 : the relation between a cause and its effect or between regularly correlated events or phenomena

You also have to define causal, of course:

1 : expressing or indicating cause : causative <a causal clause introduced by since>
2 : of, relating to, or constituting a cause <the causal agent of a disease>
3 : involving causation or a cause <the relationship…was not one of causal antecedence so much as one of analogous growth — H. O. Taylor>
4 : arising from a cause <a causal development>

One common statement in arguments, and online forums goes something like this: “Detroit is a shit hole, therefore liberals create shit holes,” or “Republicans give tax breaks to the rich, therefore Republicans hate the poor and middle class.” Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on whether you’re using causality in your argument), “correlation does not imply causation.” In other words, yes, Detroit is a shit hole, but claiming it’s as simple as the political persuasion of it’s citizens or leaders, is nearly as baseless as saying flies are always on meat, therefore flies come from meat. This was once a belief (spontaneous generation), along with the earth being flat, and the sun revolving around the earth. Detroit’s big problem was, and is, a reliance on one gigantic industry to provide for all, as well as an avoidance of education, broken families, poverty, and a host of other things that reside just as often in Republican run states (see Mississippi and Louisiana).

07160903_10.jpg

In relation to causality, I’ve noticed a lot of blame for Michigan’s, and Detroit’s, current problems placed on one person. That person, of course, is Jennifer Granholm. I’m not here to defend our governor, but blaming more than 40 years worth of problems on one person? That’s dumb.

Jennifer Granholm may be the worst leader in the history of Michigan…or the best. It doesn’t really matter. Our current governor is not the cause of Michigan’s problems, and she won’t be the solution either. If anyone thinks Detroit’s problems began with Jennifer Granholm in 2003, they really haven’t been paying attention in the any of the last four decades. Instead of trying to find one person to blame, think about yourself. What have you done to prepare for the future?

The kind of simple causal argument that is often thrown about reminds me of this quote: “For every problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.” - H. L. Mencken

Along the same lines, I came across an article about creationism in Scientific American, and found this excellent response in the comments section:

“Causation and purpose are not rational subjects, neither is who what when where or why. The psychological imperative of memory creates a pattern of linear time experienced as reality, but limited by the perceptive abilities of the observer.
The result is that a human has an imagination, an ability to associate all memories, emotions, and sense perceptions with possible future consequences. This frees the cognate mind to choose potential results. It also causes the great majority of individuals to adapt whatever cultural behavior provides the most comfort and supports the identity, the personality of the individual.
The result is a social commitment to a virtual reality, in effect a reality of belief supported by communal ritual and agreement.
The belief process itself explains the ability to remain objective or to require dependence on family, tribe. or cultural ideas of reality, or virtual reality.”

07160903_07.jpg

I found this comment to be especially applicable to not only religious or scientific beliefs, but political, economic, and social beliefs as well. It’s more comforting to believe that those who don’t have what you have, don’t deserve to have what you have. “They don’t work hard”, we so often hear. “They want something for nothing”. In fact I think this was the feeling someone got from a previous post, where I talked about low skilled vs. high skilled labor. I’m sure I came off as sounding as though I felt anyone who hasn’t made the changes I’ve made deserves their plight. While I think that, yes, everyone needs to look out for their own well being, and if that means making large, difficult changes to their lives, than so be it. That’s life.

On the other hand, I’ve never said anything about the amount of hard work anyone puts into their own jobs, or lives, which brings me back to comments like, “they don’t work hard”, or “I work hard for my money”. Unfortunately, I don’t know many who don’t work hard for their money, and honestly, on some days, I’d like to work a little less hard for my own. But the point is that it’s, often, easier and more comforting to believe something with no evidence than it is to look for the truth. Particularly when your circle of influence holds the same beliefs. It’s easier to believe you don’t have a job, because of those damn immigrants, than to face the reality of our changing times. It’s easier to believe race is to blame for crime than it is to face up to racism, prejudice, limited opportunities, and general societal problems.

I don’t claim to not make assumptions myself, but I certainly try to keep an open mind, and to allow myself to change my mind when reasoned and factual arguments are presented. Unfortunately, I fear that our peers too often don’t like us to change our minds on certain topics. It’s not ok to decide that the political or economic belief you once held may not, in fact, be true. Our political, racial, ethnic, and religious allegiances require us to give up some of our independent thinking in order to fit in neatly. All we you have to do is look at politicians who have made compromises to get something they believe in done. What happened to John McCain when he crossed the aisle to work with several Democrats to pass bills he believed in? He was brandished a liberal, a label that stuck with him until he won his party’s nomination.

Socialism, and other isms, and of course, some abandoned houses

07190901_03.jpg

As a continuation of my previous post about some ideologies that seem to be misunderstood by so many, I am writing about several different ‘isms’ that seem to be used frequently in discussions and arugments. I am not an expert in any kind of “ism”. I am simply interested in social, economic, and political theory and ideologies.

After writing this I came across an article in the Atlantic Monthly. It’s interesting, in that I see the type of agenda (both liberal and conservative) the article discusses far too often much of our media. I’m not in this to win. I don’t want to destroy anyone. I just want to encourage rational thought provoking discussion. It also made me think about what I’ve written in the past. Has it contributed to anger and hate, or has it contributed to a more admirable goal? Hopefully I can achieve the latter more often in the future.

Socialism

From Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:

1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2 a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
3 : a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.

Just putting the definition out there. You can make your own decision as to whether or not Obama is a socialist or not.

Fascism

From Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:

1 : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition

Recently Barack Obama has been accused of being a Fascist, which is of course silly. From Wikipedia, we can see that Fascists believe, among other things, that nations and/or races are in perpetual conflict whereby only the strong can survive by being healthy, vital, and by asserting themselves in conflict against the weak, and Fascism opposes class conflict, blames capitalist liberal democracies for its creation and communists for exploiting the concept. Fascists also believe in quashing all dissent and criticism of both the government, and the Fascist movement itself.

Fascists often believe in imperialismSingle-party states, Social Darwinsim, indoctrination, eugenics, and corporatism. For the most part these are not liberal ideals, and in fact, Fascism is close to the direct opposite of liberalism. It is pretty much anti-liberalism.

So to explain this in simple terms, was Obama a Fascist, the protesters at the recent town hall meetings would have been jailed or executed. Furthermore, Barack Obama is no more a dictatorial leader than George W. Bush was. Insisting on your way, if you’ve got the votes, and alliance to do so is not dictatorship. George W. Bush called it “Political Capital.” It’s not bipartisan, but it’s also not autocratic or dictatorial.

Nazism

From Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:

: the body of political and economic doctrines held and put into effect by the Nazis in Germany from 1933 to 1945 including the totalitarian principle of government, predominance of especially Germanic groups assumed to be racially superior, and supremacy of the führer.

Considering the following from the Nazism Wikipedia entry, “Nazism is often considered by scholars to be a form of fascism,” and that fascism is the antithesis of liberalism, it would be difficult to truly believe Barack Obama could be compared to Hitler, as has been done recently.

Liberalism

From Merria-Webster’s dictionary:

1 : the quality or state of being liberal
2 : a often capitalized : a movement in modern Protestantism emphasizing intellectual liberty and the spiritual and ethical content of Christianity b : a theory in economics emphasizing individual freedom from restraint and usually based on free competition, the self-regulating market, and the gold standard c : a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically : such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (as those involving race, gender, or class) d capitalized : the principles and policies of a Liberal party

Liberalism has got to be one of the big surprises for many. I would think approximately half of the politically active in this country would hate to be called “liberal,” when in fact the U.S. was founded as, and still is, a liberal nation. The Declaration of Independence states: “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; that to insure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Furthermore, the free market, so beloved by conservatives, is a liberal ideal. Of course there are different varieties of liberalism, but with a few exceptions, that is what we really have in this country. I think it’s possible to see policies in both parties that arguably violate the ideals of above quote. Furthermore, most of the political fighting currently going on is about different varieties of liberalism.

Capitalism

From Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:

: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.

There are many different forms of capitalism. One of the debates on capitalism of late is whether or not Keynesian economic theory should be used at this time, or whether or not we should continue to put our faith in the Chicago School of thought, based on neoclassical economics, which many blame for the current economic mess. One of the big flaws in neoclassical thought is the belief that people make rational decisions resulting in rational markets, and pricing. The obvious lack of rationality leads many to behavioral economics, which studies emotional factors involved in decision making.

Free Market

Once again, from Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:

: an economic market operating by free competition

This is such a simple definition, and something that we have probably never truly had in this country, contrary to many who argue that we are only currently straying from it. I would argue that we’ve had a mixed economy pretty much since the country’s inception. Although, corporations often claim they like competition, they usually don’t. Hence they often lobby our politicians for protectionist legislation (tariffs on light trucks and SUVs, and more recently, tires), restrictions on ownership (such as radio and television frequencies), and other such government interventions to give a competitive advantage to specific industries or companies.

A lesson in free speech, blah, blah, something, something, and some photos of Detroit

07160903_15.jpg

After a week of listening to crazy political, economic, and social theories, beliefs, and comments, I felt the need to vent. Unfortunately I wrote way too much, so I’ll only post a little bit at a time. I hope not to come off as preaching from a soap box, but rather presenting information that seems to be too often misunderstood.

Having a discussion about politics is similar to a discussion about religion. It takes the right combination of individuals to have a civil discussion (as evidenced by our recent national political screaming matches…err, I mean discussions). Unfortunately, bringing reason and facts to a political discussion is about as welcome and useful as it is in most religious ones. That is to say, facts and reasoned arguments are not very welcome at all. It’s too bad, as a debate of political, economic, and social theory is a good thing. Yet it seems to be almost impossible to have. If you are going to disagree, at least get your facts and statistics straight. As Mark Twain said, “Facts, or what a man believes to be facts, are always delightful - Get your facts first, and then you can distort ‘em as much as you please.” That way if you want to make stuff up, at least you’ll be less likely to come off as part of the lunatic fringe.

The first topic in which it was obvious many of the participants of the “discussions” didn’t have much of an understanding is:

Free speech, and the protection of it under the First Amendment of the Constitution

From the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Note, you do not have a protection from corporations, private businesses, or individuals. Therefore if someone in the press criticizes what you have said, or suggests you shouldn’t have said it, your right to free speech has not been violated. If an online forum deletes your idiotic (or thoughtful) comment, your right to free speech has not been violated. If someone tells you to “shut up,” your right to free speech has not been violated. Furthermore, there is a whole host of instances in which, the amendment has been interpreted to allow for the restriction of the individuals right to free speech by the federal government (judicial activism has a long history, knows no political boundaries). Of course this is a very limited presentation on your first amendment protections. It is only meant to explain your right, or lack thereof, as it pertains to the, apparently, very common misconception that you are granted the right to free speech in every domain.

09150401_17.jpg

And here’s the blah, blah, something, something part:

There’s been a claim that the the federal government can’t do anything right (no pun intended). That they’ll obviously bungle anything they do, other than, depending on your point of view, highways, defense, social security, sewers, water, and electricity. In direct opposition of the first statement is a second one. The second statement often used in conjunction with the first says, that the federal government shouldn’t be involved in health care because they’ll drive the private businesses out of business due to a lower operating cost. Well, which is it? It can’t be both. Is the government more efficient…or less?

Don Tapscott provides a good argument in favor of my long held desire to clean house at the Big Three, in a “Crisis of leadership.”

At least we’re not Texas. Does anyone other than a Texan like Texas?

This poor woman decides to leave Detroit after 60 years, and get berated by idiots in the comments. What the hell? Can’t people can’t just say, “good luck.” Or how about, don’t say anything? Really, we’d all appreciate it.

Mind control, welcome to Detroit…sorry we stole your stuff, and other stuff

07200902_06.jpg

More irrational fears appear to be circulating in the metro Detroit area. Apparently, according to the comments, Barack Obama has mastered the (non-existent) ability of mind control. And over the airwaves nonetheless! Supposedly the President will attempt to “indoctrinate” school children while “pretending” to extoll the virtues of hard work, studying, and staying in school. How could he? Everyone knows it’s best for our future if school children skip school, don’t do their homework, and eventually drop out. After all this whole education thing is a liberal conspiracy. In metro Detroit’s defense, apparently the same irrational fear has found it’s way around much of the country. I wonder what he’ll do with his army of school aged, socialist, zombies?

Detroit welcomes all artists and other creative types, though we’re sorry all of your expensive equipment was stolen within hours of your arrival… The truth is though, there is something very engaging about Detroit. I suppose it’s like watching a building demolished by explosives. Maybe you’re sad to see it go, but damn it’s cool to watch. And, perhaps with a lot of hard work, by the few types of individuals willing to live there (artists, immigrants…), something better came replace what once was.

From Metropolis:

“The fact is that there is something about Detroit, something compelling and frightening that draws you there to consider the landscape. On some level you understand that we did this. All of us. Detroit represents the hubris of American industry, an industry once innovative and now atrophied, an industry that created the car-centric culture that is choking not just Detroit but cities everywhere (no Cash for Clunkers for our dying buildings). It is the fall of Rome right before our eyes, an apocalypse of our own making. It is the death of the American city as we know it and we are all at a loss of where to go next.”

Here are the kinds of people Detroit needs to attract. Entrepreneurial, risk takers…the very people that start businesses, and come up with solutions to problems are the people that can help save metro Detroit. The problem, of course is how to attract them. Don’t let them visit cities like Portland, or Denver, before they commit to Detroit, that’s for sure. The friendly, creative communities, the bike lanes, parks, recreational opportunities, restaurants, coffee shops, safe urban living, and clean, affordable mass transit, available in those cities, will make it a no brainer for them.

And, damn it Michigan! When will you pass a smoking ban? 80% of the population does not smoke. Michigan is one of only 13 states with no ban whatsoever. Like with everything else you refuse to do Michigan, you are falling behind the rest of the country. Please, try not to become the Appalachia of the north.

Nothing to do with Detroit…

07150801_15_bw.jpg

I keep getting emails from people asking me to write my representatives regarding supposed things they are going to do with my money. Fortunately, every time I investigate it turns out the worrying is all for naught. It turns out in almost every case that our politicians, while admittedly self-serving, aren’t stupid enough to do the crazy things they are accused of in said emails.

This isn’t a plea to stop the emails, it’s to bring up a point. And the point is this: Some people are ignorant, due to either a lack of IQ or common sense. This is sad, but not their fault. Others choose ignorance. This is much worse.

Thank you. That is all.

Too little, too late?

fisher_plant_snow.jpg

U.S. automakers agree to new fuel efficiency standards. U.S. automakers cut costs. U.S. automakers make fuel efficient vehicles. That’s great. The problem isn’t necessarily with what Big Three execs agree to now, or what they say now, it’s what has happened over the last 35, or so, years. GM, and the other American automobile manufacturers have a really bad legacy. Any other companies that were as poorly managed would be out of business. Even with a massive taxpayer bailout, GM is still filing for bankruptcy. That alone speaks volumes.

While Toyota may be hurting, it doesn’t appear they will be filing for bankruptcy. And, Honda, while posting some recent losses appears to be well positioned for the future. It’s as if the American automotive industry is given a pass for failing to plan successfully for the future. And worse yet, for failures which are often admitted, even by Wagoner himself.

It’s sad. I am still paying on a house in metro Detroit, as are others I’m sure, even while having to leave the state to make a living. We are, in effect, paying the price for the short sightedness of our political and corporate leaders. The Big Three execs seem downright excited about new fuel efficiency standards, and electric vehicles. Too bad they didn’t seem remotely interested even ten years ago, and in fact banded together to fight new CAFE standards multiple times.

The argument, by Big Three defenders, is always, “they sold what the public wanted.” Of course the truth is usually not that simple, nor is the past performance proof of future results. Just because people bought Ford Excursions when gas was $1.25/gallon, doesn’t mean they’ll buy them when gas is $3/gallon. But if we are to believe upper management at the Big Three, no one could have seen this coming. Plenty of people did, and smaller companies with less funding, fewer employees, and much less experience in the automotive industry are now leading the way in electric vehicles. While GM has long since canceled the EV1 program, companies such as Tesla, Fisker, and Detroit Electric are now either already selling, or are close to selling everything from high performance sports cars to affordable family sedans.

fisher_plant_door.jpg

You’ll often hear, that it wasn’t short sightedness. That it must be the unions fault, or perhaps it’s just a bad economy. The Big Three have been losing market share and money for much longer than this current economic downturn. Not that I’m not going to defend the UAW. I believe the UAW leadership was self-serving and short sighted, just like management, and our political leaders. I also believe that while much of the union rank and file knew the good times wouldn’t last, most just decided to get it while the getting was good. That’s a pretty short sighted game plan as well. It seems no one could see beyond the end of their nose.

So now, with Chrysler and GM going through bankruptcy, the Big Three are suddenly excited about fuel efficiency standards, controlling costs, and alternative fuel vehicles. Is it too little, too late? And opinions range from Detroit’s too excited about green cars, to the Big Three’s not embracing green cars enough, to Rick Wagoner is a scapegoat, to Rick Wagoner is to blame, to GM has too many brands, to GM should hold to brands, to Obama is doing too much, to Obama is doing too little. Nobody knows exactly what will work, or even if anything will work. Writers from many media outlets including writers from both the Washington Post and Business Week are at odds as to the reasons for the fall of the Big Three, and how to save it.

antique_car_storage.jpg

The only thing that seems certain is that whatever the fix is, it’s at least 20 years too late. Already the stumbles of the Big Three are opening the doors even wider for foreign manufacturers. I suppose it’s human nature to wait until the roof is collapsing to attempt to fix it, but with all of the money paid to almost everyone involved, you’d hope for a better outcome. When CEOs are paid millions, you expect them to fix inefficiencies, broken business models, and foresee possible future challenges. Gas prices may not stay at $1.25/gallon, consumers may not always want really large SUVs, and the economy may not always grow at record rates. It seems that the claims that no one could see these things coming are a bit disingenuous. It seems more likely that our leaders were simply blind or ignorant. Consumers didn’t always like SUVs. In fact Jeeps were at one point just for that off road enthusiast down the street. Pickup trucks were for construction workers and hunters. Gasoline is a limited resource. We have experienced rising fuel prices several times before. Consumers couldn’t really afford $50k automobiles, but an economy that seemed good led consumers to leverage themselves to buy Hummers and Escalades (among other things). Of course the economy would slow down. It had to. Anyone who couldn’t see that, simply didn’t want to.

53 Places to go in 2008?

No this one is for real. I’m not making it up, and there’s been no Photoshop manipulation here. The New York Times says that Detroit’s one of the top places to visit in 2008.

Detroit’s a better place to visit in 2008 then San Diego, Australia, London, and New York! Wow, I guess my cynicism got in the way of realizing what a gem Detroit is! Yea, right… Who paid who, to get this listing? I agree that the new hotels are really nice, but if it’s about new hotels, why does Vegas rank lower? Hmm…perhaps the Times was trying to come up with some places that were a little out of the ordinary? Well, Detroit seems to be the only one out of the ordinary. Maybe one of us can’t see the forest for the trees…

I also do think the DIA is great, and the renovation is great. There’s more space, and it shows off the collections better. To bad the DIA doesn’t seem to be able to do for Detroit what the Guggenheim did for Bilbao, Spain.

I like to visit Detroit, but that’s because I like to take photos of abandoned and decaying spaces. What city could be better? That said here’s a few new photos:

04210602_10_xl.jpg

04150406_11.jpg