A Philosopher's Blog

The Winterization of Our Discontent

Posted in Business, Ethics, Philosophy, Politics, Uncategorized by Michael LaBossiere on October 26, 2011
Vice President Joe Biden L'68

"I'll drop by with my caulk."

Jon Stewart recently did a segment on certain problems with Obama’s weatherization plan. This plan was supposed to accomplish two main goals: create jobs and lower people’s energy bills. This certainly sounded like a somewhat good idea, aside from the fact that, as Joe Biden said, it seemed to be rather lacking in provisions that would ensure the money was used properly and effectively. Crudely put, it seemed like money was being handed over without much in the way of actual requirements.

As one might imagine, when you hand money over to people without having some sort of enforcement system, you are counting on their competence and integrity to ensure that the money is well spent. As might be imagined, there have been numerous problems with this program. Apparently some states gladly accepted the money but produced little in the way of positive results. To be specific, the program did not seem to quite create as many jobs as hoped and even the attempts at winterization and energy efficiency often seemed to turn out to be failures.

Part of the blame obviously rests on the Obama administration. Handing out money without an enforcement mechanism is obviously a bad idea if you expect that the money will be well and properly spent. Of course, the Obama administration was perhaps reluctant to tell the states what to do-as most Republicans will tell you, infringing on state’s rights is a bad thing. However, the Obama administration can be seen as being like a person who gives his relatives a bunch of cash and tells them to use it to hire people to make their houses more energy efficient. True, the person who hands out the money should have better sense-especially if he knows that many of his relatives cannot be trusted with money.

Part of the blame also rests with the state governments. After all, they were supposed to spend the money to create jobs and increase energy efficiency and they seem to have often failed in these tasks. This supports the notion that government often does a bad job but, of course, counts against the notion that turning control over to the states will automatically be better than having matters handled by the federal government. It must also be noted that private businesses were involved in this as well, thus indicating the obvious fact that private industry can be just as corrupt as government (in fact, the two forms of corruption generally go hand in hand).

The problems in the program are, of course, a mark against Obama’s administration. They are also a mark against the state governments that misused the money as well as a mark against the businesses that benefited from this. Somewhat ironically, this also shows that the Obama administration is not an enemy of business-after all, it seems quite willing to practice the time honored pro-business tradition of corruption.

While it is tempting to see this all as business as usual, we should not be willing to accept this. We, as a people, should be better than this. And we can be-but it is up to us to hold our governments and their business friends accountable. In general, we should insist on better oversight in regards to how our money is being spent.

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34 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on October 26, 2011 at 7:34 am

    From the report Mike linked:

    The Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, Inc. (CEDA), one of the largest local agencies nationwide participating in the Weatherization Program, was expected to receive approximately $91 million over 3 years to weatherize an estimated 12,500 homes – almost half of Illinois’ total.
    In December 2009, we issued a Management Alert on The Department’s Monitoring of the Weatherization Assistance Program in the State of Illinois (OAS-RA-10-02), in which we raised concerns regarding inadequate monitoring and substandard contractor workmanship. Based on these concerns, we extended test work, focusing on the Illinois Weatherization Program and its largest local agency, CEDA. This report provides the results of our review.

    Let’s see, Cook County. Now what is special about Cook County? Oh, yes:

    The county has by far more Democratic Party members than any other Illinois county, and is one of the most Democratic counties in the United States. It has voted only once for a Republican candidate in a Presidential election in the last forty years, when county voters preferred Richard Nixon to George McGovern in 1972.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cook_County,_Illinois

  2. WTP said, on October 26, 2011 at 8:30 am

    “-as most Republicans will tell you, infringing on state’s rights is a bad thing.” – Yeah. But as even more Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians will tell you, sending money to Washington only to have it sent back to the states is a HUGE waste of time, energy, and most significantly, money. And in this instance, it is NOT an infringement on state’s rights. In this case the money came from the federal government. The states didn’t have to take the money. When Wastington truly infringes on states’ rights, it doesn’t seem to bother you much at all Mike. More sophistry.

  3. T. J. Babson said, on October 26, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Mike, are you OK with this? And you, dhammett? No problem with the missing girls?

    Nature provides an unbending biological standard for the sex ratio at birth of 104-106 males to every 100 females. Any significant divergence from that narrow range can only be explained by abnormal factors.

    In India and Vietnam the figure is around 112 boys for every 100 girls. In China it is almost 120 to 100 – and in some places higher than 130.

    And the trend is spreading: to regions like the South Caucasus, where Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia all post birth ratios of more than 115 to 100, and further west to Serbia and Bosnia.

    Global awareness of the problem was raised back in 1990 with an article by the Nobel Prize-winning Indian economist Amartya Sen that carried the now famous title: “More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing.”

    Demographers say that figure is now more than 160 million – women selected out of existence by the convergence of traditional preferences for sons, declining fertility and, most crucially, the prevalence of cheap prenatal sex-determination technology.

    As many as half a million female foetuses are estimated to be aborted each year in India, according to a study by British medical journal The Lancet.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/8850247/Population-to-hit-seven-billion-experts-warn-of-bachelor-nations.html

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 26, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      What? Are you really asking if I am okay with people intentionally aborting female babies because they have a preference for males babies? Is there something in my post about weatherization that indicated I’d be for that sort of thing?

      • T. J. Babson said, on October 27, 2011 at 7:44 am

        “Are you really asking if I am okay with people intentionally aborting female babies because they have a preference for males babies?”

        Yes. Is there anything in your position on abortion that allows one to judge whether the mother’s reasons for aborting the fetus are appropriate? Or is it OK for the woman to abort for any reason?

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 27, 2011 at 2:30 pm

          Short answer:
          1. Yes.
          2. No.

          Longer answer:

          I do not have a full theory of abortion ethics, but an abortion is a morally significant action (as opposed to an action that has no moral significance, like one’s choice among normal ice cream flavors). The reason why a woman has an abortion is relevant to the morality of the action. To use the stock example, having an abortion because one wants to wear a smaller dress size to a party would certainly seem to be morally wrong. After all, the reason does not warrant the action. Wanting to have a male child would also not seem to warrant an abortion.

          I cannot think of any serious ethicist who has argued that a woman has a moral right to an abortion for just any reason whatsoever, although I am sure someone has made such an argument (as I tell my students, there is probably no position that someone has not taken at some point).

          Since the metaphysics of person hood are not settled, I am not sure if the fetus is a person in a philosophical sense (a law could be written making anything into a legal person, even something as absurd as a corporation). However, a fetus is clearly a potential person and, as such, has a presumption of value in its favor. Thus, its death would need to be justified by something significant and this would exclude many reasons from serving to morally justify abortions.

          • T. J. Babson said, on October 28, 2011 at 12:57 am

            “I cannot think of any serious ethicist who has argued that a woman has a moral right to an abortion for just any reason whatsoever, although I am sure someone has made such an argument (as I tell my students, there is probably no position that someone has not taken at some point).”

            And yet does not the pro-choice position embrace the idea that we should not question a woman’s decision to have an abortion for any reason she chooses? I do not hear any voices on the pro-choice side cautioning women that there may be inappropriate reasons to have an abortion. Has anyone heard such voices?

            • WTP said, on October 28, 2011 at 9:22 am

              Well, it’s not like I’m anyone anyone listens to, nor do I care for the debate on any side of this issue, but there are those of us who are pro-choice within limits of the first trimester or less and yet still opposed to abortion after that time. Aside from that, it’s a women’s issue and men should generally stay out of it. But that’s ust my NSHO.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 28, 2011 at 9:37 am

              Pro-choice thinkers regularly discuss these matters, at least among the philosophers I interact with. However, I suspect that pro-choice folks are often reluctant to focus on such matters because they are concerned that the pro-life folks will use them to push against choice. Likewise, pro-life folks are often reluctant to cede any ground to the pro-choice folks.

              As usual, the majority of folks tend to be in the middle: against the “abortion for any reason” view and also against the “no abortion no matter what.” While an appeal to the majority is not good reasoning, this does seem to be the most reasonable moral and practical position. What would be ideal, of course, would be zero unwanted pregnancies and hence zero abortions.

            • dhammett said, on October 28, 2011 at 9:49 am

              http://www.choicematters.org/articles/legal-abortion-arguments-pro-con/

              You’ve heard my voice–er, read my words. I am generally on the pro-choice side (as opposed to forcing the woman to carry the fetus to term—i.e. giving her “no choice” whatsoever) .

              ^”Anti-choice” ^ groups have a legitimate role to play in trying to educate the female public as to the benefits of carrying a rapist’s fetus to term. Or carrying daddy or Uncle Louie’s evil product to term. Or risking your own life for the POTENTIAL human in the womb. So far, I haven’t seen a legitimate effort to do this in a legal, non-religious forum. What I’ve seen is state organizations pushing for laws that make abortion illegal in all cases. They failed when they put it to a vote in ’08 in South Dakota. They’re trying in Mississippi. Two states I’ve dreamed about following into the abyss. Or did I mean falling into the abyss? Nevertheless. They’ll keep trying until they succeed, because they know they’re right.

              It doesn’t help their case when they simultaneously object to sex education in schools because gov’t pays for it.. When they fervently oppose contraceptives–imagine that, objecting to condoms, a PRE-conception birth control method, saying the state should have no role in such. They’ll have me more convinced of the honesty and validity of their stance on abortion when they’re passing out rubbers with the Eucharist at Sunday services. When their ‘pro-life’ movement openly, publicly, and stridently rejects as the dregs of society anyone who would .shoot a Dr. performing legal abortions. I want to see the bumper sticker for that.

              The whole issue would be much better served if the extremist whackos on both sides would exit the arena.

  4. T. J. Babson said, on October 26, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Sorry, I forgot which post we were talking about abortion.

    • dhammett said, on October 26, 2011 at 10:43 pm

      TJ: And I’m sorry I was 6 minutes too late to catch your apology. Just forget my third paragraph at 10:40.

  5. dhammett said, on October 26, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    TJ: I wish you had put that first sentence where you know it belonged. At the end. I had to read your post just to get to the juicy part about missing girls. Without the first sentence, I’d have never gotten to the part that asked for my response.

    Starting way back, when I was biomass2 I made my argument that the life of the mother is, in my opinion (not a faith-driven opinion, by the way) as important than the life of the fetus. I contended then that though the cellular material in the womb may be human in nature, it can be argued (again outside the question of faith) that the mass in the womb isn’t human in the same sense that the 10 year old girl or a 37 year old woman is human. As a result, my support has always been for abortion by choice in the earliest stages and certainly in cases of rape, incest, or protection of the life of the mother at any stage. One thing I’d never do, by the way, is argue against sex education in the schools or contraceptive programs on religious grounds or to garner votes.

    But you’ve read my posts. You know where I stand. So you must know how I’m going to answer your question. My question then is: Why ask it? Why here, and why now? What brought this topic on in response to weatherization and corruption? Did you have a missing link you didn’t know what to do with? Did someone you know recently get an abortion? Where’s the video?

    A: I’ve never been for government selected abortions. Those likely account for most of the “missing women” —oops! I mean “missing potential women”, if you want to be precise or truthful, or not misleading— you are referring to. I abhor forced government abortions I hate them more than some people hate blacks. More than some fundamentalists hate gays. But my hatred is far more rational. I would bet the vast majority in this country recoils from the mere thought of forced government abortions. Even pro-choice atheist women. Fortunately,in our country our government doesn’t force anyone to do anything but follow a few simple laws, pay taxes, and maybe, at some point, buy health insurance.

    Simple A: Of course I have a problem with forced government abortions. Abortions forced by traditions. Forced abortions as parts of religious ritual. . .

    • T. J. Babson said, on October 27, 2011 at 7:39 am

      “A: I’ve never been for government selected abortions. Those likely account for most of the “missing women” —oops! I mean “missing potential women”, if you want to be precise or truthful, or not misleading— you are referring to. I abhor forced government abortions I hate them more than some people hate blacks. More than some fundamentalists hate gays. But my hatred is far more rational.”

      dhammett, why do you believe they are forced? It is just that the families prefer to have boys for societal reasons.

      • dhammett said, on October 27, 2011 at 9:37 am

        What was the Simple A I wrote in my last sentences?

        There’s “force” implicit in those ‘societal reasons’. It’s not labeled as such, but it’s real. In fact, when a government makes a choice to require abortions, it’s usually for what they would say is ‘the good of society’.

        I’m against anyone making the choice but the mother and, of course, in the cases of girls who are not yet of legal age , the medical community and responsible family members –at least those who are not driven by religion and who are willing to take on the financial and social burden while the girl works to rebuild her life. #*

        #*We wouldn’t want irresponsible family members to market the baby for profit, using their daughter as a baby machine. I want the five year old “fetus” :) to have a chance at a decent life. It’s too easy for some to cry for the life in the womb then ignore the life of the baby.

        Choice. No force. OK? Don’t force a woman to carry a baby if she’s been raped or if the pregnancy endangers her life. Don’t force a victim of incest to carry her daddy’s or uncle’s wicked seed.

  6. ajmacdonaldjr said, on October 27, 2011 at 2:23 am

    Funny you should put Biden’s (D-DE) photo here. Did you know Delaware is a tax haven:

    “Fortune 500 companies are only half the story in Wilmington. There is one building here that is home to more than 200,000 corporations.”

    See: http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/Specials/Swiss_banking_secrecy_under_fire/Background/Delaware:_tax_haven_or_just_advantageous.html?cid=7090

    The problem in Washington, with tax monies, Mike, is the waste of our tax dollars. Why do people not seem to understand this fact???

    According to the GAO Washington wastes $200,000,000,000 due to the duplication of federal programs.

    I suggest you read this, find the section on waste, and do a little investigating. And please start thinking outside the box, because it’s hardly time for business as usual.

    See: http://ajmacdonaldjr.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/some-men-see-things-as-they-are-and-say-why-i-dream-things-that-never-were-and-say-why-not-rfk/

  7. WTP said, on October 27, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Since we’re stomping all over thread subject lines anyway, and that other thread is a PITA to scroll through, I’ll repost here…

    One simple question. Can wealth be destroyed? Yes/No.

    • T. J. Babson said, on October 28, 2011 at 12:49 am

      Yes.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 28, 2011 at 9:40 am

      Yes. If we consider wealth to include things like art, cars, and house and so on then it can clearly be destroyed. After all, these objects can be destroyed as objects (a melted down car is no longer a car, a painting that is burned to ash is no longer art and so on).

      Also, if wealth is dependent on intelligent beings (that is, there is no wealth value without being to value those things that make up wealth) the death of such beings would effectively “destroy” the wealth.

      • WTP said, on October 28, 2011 at 10:21 am

        OK. Now we’re getting somewhere. So if wealth can be destroyed, then for the sum total of wealth to remain constant, it would be necessary to say that wealth can be created. If wealth can be created, what is there to stop the creation of wealth from exceeding its rate of destruction? Would intelligent beings not desire to perpetuate wealth creation and limit wealth destruction?

        “Also, if wealth is dependent on intelligent beings (that is, there is no wealth value without being to value those things that make up wealth) the death of such beings would effectively “destroy” the wealth.” – You’re missing part of the point here. Wealth is dependent on intelligent beings coming up with IDEAS. So long as those beings have a means of transmitting those ideas amongst themselves and down to later generations, the wealth will continue to accumulate. If he institutions and objects that enable this process to occur were to be destroyed, yes then the wealth will die off along with the death of the intelligent beings. Capice?

        • dhammett said, on October 28, 2011 at 11:26 am

          So if wealth will die off when the “institutions and objects that enable this process to occur were to be destroyed” —or destroy themselves— “wealth will die off.” Wealth will have been destroyed? Period. If it’s dead, it’s gone. Destroyed. Right? I thought that had already been determined on here.

          “What is there to stop the creation of wealth from exceeding its rate of destruction?” What is there to prevent the creation of wealth from falling short of the rate of destruction of wealth? “Would intelligent beings not desire to perpetuate wealth creation and limit wealth destruction?” Never underestimate a basic truth: Greed,desire for power, ideological madness. . .and the many other weaknesses of mankind can too easily overwhelm man’s “intelligence”. And that way lies man’s destruction. . . and the destruction of wealth.

          But, if man ^somehow^ continues to exist, and we reach the point where the creation of wealth falls short of the rate of destruction, there will always be some wealth. . .of sorts. I can pay Mike $5 for the ashes of the $200+-million dollar Cezanne he burned ,and use the ashes as part of a sand painting I name “Sandpainting with Van Gogh’s Ashes” (why be truthful at that point?) and sell it to a wide-eyed tourist for $8 at my stand along a searingly hot stretch of highway in New Mexico. I’ve created some wealth for me. But the hyper-priced Van Gogh/Cezanne/or was it Picasso? has become part of an $8 product that some poor schmuck will hang proudly in his basement game room next to his black velvet “Dogs Playing Poker”.

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 28, 2011 at 11:46 am

            But suppose that you become a famous artist after your death and the granddaughter of the schmuck sells it for $300 million to Ludwick Von Gates-Buffet-Bush the Fourth. In that case, wealth has been created big time. Naturally, the story can continue.

          • dhammett said, on October 28, 2011 at 5:24 pm

            Cold creeps in. A snow is predicted. Halloween is upon us. Ghosts and goblins. BOO!BOO!
            View this. TJ, in your honor, I’m not providing any time markers. If you want to enjoy it, you’ll have to view it from the beginning.

            http://finance.yahoo.com/video/cnbc-22844419/rally-stock-picks-27094366

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 28, 2011 at 11:41 am

          Sure, wealth can be created and this can exceed its destruction. Likewise, we can eat cakes and bake cakes.

          Sure, wealth is presumably an idea. While objects presumably exist apart from us wealth seems to be a mental construct. We can even “create” it by printing money and saying it is worth something.

          • magus71 said, on October 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm

            “We can even “create” it by printing money and saying it is worth something.”

            People worked for the money, or sold something for the money, Mike. In the old days, before money, perhaps someone would give you a camel or a load of wood. But now, instead of having to carry your camel or log around, you only have to carry cash. Cash is a contract, backed by the government.

          • WTP said, on October 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm

            Looks like we’ve got to back this discussion up even further. I thought it was understood that money and wealth are two different things. Do you not understand that printing money neither increases or decreases wealth? Do you understand what money is, why it exists, what its purpose is? Am I misremembering, or did we not already have this discussion.

            On another note, is there some kind of code amongst philosophers that they cannot admit that they are wrong about something unless it is to another certified philosopher?

            Yet coming back to your post, “printing money and saying it is worth something” is precisely what Obama and his friends have been doing for the last 3 years. Do you not get this?

          • WTP said, on October 28, 2011 at 6:11 pm

            So it occurs to me, best not leave this to random interpretation. Say I take $1 million in genuine United States currency, put it in a pile, and light it on fire. OR I take a brand new Honda Accord, straight off the assembly line and drop it into the Marianas Trench. In which instance (if either?) has more wealth been destroyed?

            • T. J. Babson said, on October 28, 2011 at 6:37 pm

              As long as it is not my $1M, I’m perfectly happy to say that burning it is not destroying wealth because it makes the remaining money worth more.

  8. dhammett said, on October 28, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    I actually preferred TJ’s ‘ accidental’ ‘abortion’ ‘thread stomping’ (as WTP would refer to it) to WTP’s own ‘wealth’ thread stomp. Bouncing back and forth between corruption and abortion and wealth I feel like I’m at a drive-in (remember those, anyone? in the Seventies (remember those, anyone?) eating my fries and watching four guys fighting to survive in a Georgia wilderness as “Dueling Banjos” plays in the background.

    This from today’s Washington Post Online to add to my already-stated opinions about how pro-lifers feel about the rights of pregnant women—even those who had no “choice” in the matter, like victims of rape and incest and those faced with life-threatening medical conditions.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-an-anti-abortion-push-to-redefine-person-could-wind-up-hurting-women/2011/10/26/gIQAQSwGQM_story_2.html?sub=AR

  9. magus71 said, on November 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Who else thinks Mike’s view of America is nearly a mirror image of Obama’s view?

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1111/68459.html

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on November 16, 2011 at 2:44 pm

      I prefer a president who is aware of the problems and is at least trying to address them over someone who insists that the emperor is, in fact, beautifully clothed. But I would love a president who was able to actually fix things.

      • wtp said, on November 17, 2011 at 7:22 am

        At first I read this as Obama being the emperor who is beautifully clothed. The irony here is astounding.


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