Monday, October 19, 2009

Don’t question the hero

Some guy wrote to the Bulletin questioning my qualifications as “a hero” just because he “saves lives” and “fights crime” and is a good example for the children and stuff.  This clip from Dr Horrible’s sing along blog should clear things up.

Remember, “it’s not enough to bash in heads, you’ve got to bash in minds.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


October 14, 2009 - 02:30 PM

American_hero, you state that you have "not seen the slightest bit of any evidence of abuses" as far as city government, yet you set yourself up as judge and jury about how the police union and negotiations work without being privy to any inside information or actual involvement in the process. Making "the union boss" the bad guy here, as if the police officers don't have the power to vote down anything the union leaders recommend, is both inaccurate and misleading. I know from your website that you have a low opinion of unions, but projecting your own biases onto the police union isn't justified and makes for a weak argument that police officers can easily refute. A union leader does not get to "dictate", he represents the group, which has the choice to follow his recommended course of action by voting its approval or to reject his platform. Also, this is not a one-sided affair. The city has its negotiations representative and both sides hash thing out until compromises are reached and a contract is agreed upon by both parties. Much of the anger and frustration we are reading in these postings comes from the police force's resentment of the city's strong-arm tactics and breach of trust by reneging on past contract agreements. It is not just about money, which you describe as "greed", but it is also about principles. Joe, I know that you had a bad experience with the police several years ago when you were on your bike. Do think that, unintentionally, this may be coloring your assessment of the situation or are you just influenced by your obvious contempt for and distrust of unions, in general? Sincerely, Karen

Dear Karen:

Well I only know what I read in the papers.  If there was some abuses someone can say.  So far all I’ve read is that the city manager is a mean jerk and “threatened to fire us.”  Never mind that he’s their boss and that’s his job, to “manage” the city’s resources.  They should hire me as their negotiator, then I’d decide if there are any abuses or not.

I know that to many people, the labor unions hold some special place in the hearts and minds, fighting for “the rights of the working man.”  But to an economist, a labor union is simply a cartel that controls the supply of labor.  Of course I don’t hold the policy of a cartel in high regard; they are simply looking out for the best interests of their members – not “the working man” in general.  Now in a free market I don’t dispute the right of workers to assemble into any organization and act according to their own interests.  But I don’t make any apology for regarding GOVERNMENT unions as a political force detrimental to the interests of "the working man” or anyone for that matter.

I don’t think I’ve been particularly critical of the MPOA any more than I’ve been critical of the teacher’s union, which in my view is precisely the same issue with different players.  The teachers castigate the school board and tell all the parents to “tell the school board you want smaller class sizes” etc.  And they are the ones who dictated the larger class sizes!

I’m not the judge of the police department’s operation.  I’ve tried to be fair in judgment, and just a last month the chief’s wife thanked me for my kind words about her husband’s leadership at a public meeting.  However, I’m not the one who put a gun to some guy’s head and threatened “we can kill you right here” and I’m not the one who kicks a man off his bicycle in retaliation for speaking out at a public meeting and I’m not responsible for the man (men actually) who mysteriously die in custody, sometimes with boot marks on his back.  Or picking fights at bars or teenage parties or beating their wives, or singling out businesses for harassment because they are the wrong race.  So if you’re asking if I demand better from this so called “professional police force” yes I do.  But I don’t think this really has anything to do with the city/union negotiations, except to the extent that I can hardly contain myself when they start whining and going on about what a fantastic job they do. 

Notice how suddenly the issue isn’t them but it’s me.

Monday, October 12, 2009


That last thing from the city manager was kinda depressing, so let’s just look at some pictures from last week’s Pumpkin Fair.

 pumpkin 054 pumpkin 063

pumpkin 116 pumpkin 085pumpkin 219   pumpkin 157 pumpkin 143  pumpkin 235 pumpkin 242 pumpkin 257 pumpkin 271

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Just for the record

This is page 7 and 8 of the report to Manteca City Council (3 Aug 09) titled: COPS Hiring Recovery Program Grant, i.e., the Obama “stimulus” money that reduced the police layoffs from 16 to 12:



The total compensation package to start is $114,405. This includes $15,630 health insurance, $20,227 in deferred pay to his retirement account, a dental plan and even $196 for eyeglasses, in addition to $76K in salary.

Tell me, where else on earth can a kid out of high school get a job paying over 100K? I probably shouldn’t say that, but let's be realistic people!

Notice, in addition, there are some built-in raises for year 2 and 3. By year 3 (the far, far distant future I know) the compensation goes up to $132,126 per year. Isn’t it nice to know our city leaders know what the future holds?

It should be obvious that no amount of new taxes, whether it’s a utility tax or a sales tax or a development fee or whatever, can ever keep up with such obscenely excessive increases in the costs of government services. There’s just no other way to even have a government other than controlling the costs.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Pointless bickering tests endurance


Amid the heat and mental pressure of a council chamber packed with angry policemen, a woman fainted, briefly causing a break in the pointless, childish, hyperbolic emotional “debate” over pay adjustments for city workers.

I guess technically this was before the pointless debate, as the meeting was still an agenda item at the time, a plan to upgrade the public works garage.  This presentation was so searing-ly boring that it’s a wonder someone doesn’t drop every meeting. 

(The young woman had, it appeared, simply fainted and walked out with assistance.  It was very warm in there, and it was packed with people.)


Below, Manteca citizen does a pretty respectable Norma Rae

IMGP3465 norma-rae

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Justice for Jeremy walk

Group marching from SJ Co. Jail to Lathrop on 12 Sep 09 to protest or bring awareness to Jeremy Lum. Total distance about 6 miles. Some made the walk without shoes to simulate the conditions Jeremy found himself.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Manteca Pumpkin Fair


Here’s an early look at the Manteca Pumpkin Fair.  I got there early this year and got lots of free trinkets!  And talked to a few of the political movers and shakers.

Friday, October 02, 2009

The circus in town?

circus 010  How did this get here without me noticing?circus 012Why no mention in the newspapers?  There’s a special edition of the Bulletin with a map of  the “Pumpkin Festival,” so why no mention of the circus? circus 016

circus 020

Here’s the basic idea.  It look like a pretty fun circus.  At least it’s something “real.”  I know everyone’s probably seen a circus on TV or in the movies, but here’s a chance to see a real live performance.  I have no idea of the quality of the show.  And I probably won’t because as you can see from the sign my camera isn’t welcome.  “No camera?”  What’s the point then?

There seems to be a zebra.circus 027

circus 037 … and a camel getting flowers.


circus 073 But alas, no tiger so I’m told.  They do have an elephant on the way but no pictures of it.

Study significant in what it doesn’t say

Congressman Alan Grayson put up a sign on the floor of congress listing the “republican plan” for health care as “die quickly.”  The “support” for this statement is a “study” he claims “proves” that thousands die because they don’t have health insurance.  The “study” is on his web sitediequck and he invited everyone to read it for themselves.

Well I did look at the study.  First of all, it says nothing about “republicans” but that’s not the point.  There’s some very significant fine print in that study!

The chart does indeed show an increased risk of death among those without health insurance as compared to those with private health insurance

Wait a second!  Isn’t the study missing something?  What about those who have government supplied health care?  They simply chose not to include any government health care plans in their study!  Why?

We can’t really know why for sure.  But there are some hints that suggest a reason:  If they had included government supplied health care, chances are it would show that having government health care would cause more deaths than either not having insurance at all or having private health care!  Let me explain why that’s likely.

Let’s simplify things with a little analogy.  Let’s say I want to study how far an athlete can throw various types of fruit.  Let’s say I want know which can you throw farther: an apple, an orange or a pineapple?  Simple enough, right?

So we do our experiment (study).  We carefully control for the strength of the thrower and randomize things so one person doesn’t always throw the apple first or the pineapple last to avoid skewing the results by having a tired throwing arm, and things like that.  No need to go into more details.  Let’s just say the results are in and we read the published, peer reviewed results:  The apple was thrown 1.4 times farther than the orange.  Great study, huh?

image But wait a minute, what happened to the pineapple?  In the fine print, it says we didn’t include the pineapple because the throwers couldn’t seem to throw the pineapple right.  Good excuse?

Why couldn’t they make a glove or something to throw the pineapple or a machine to throw all the fruits?  Or something?  Maybe they say they had to “adjust” for the different weights of the apple and the orange.  So if they could “compensate” for one of them, why couldn’t they adjust for confounding factors for the pineapple?  Something is wrong.

Also, from the comment in the notes “not able to throw the pineapple right;” doesn’t that suggest that the pineapple didn’t go as far as the others?  Isn’t that the implication?  Because if the pineapple flew farther than the others, the note would say something like “the pineapple seemed to be too aerodynamic and flew too easily” or something like that.

image Furthermore, let’s say there’s a political debate raging over the issue of if pineapples or apples fly farther.  Doesn’t that make it all the more suspicious when the pineapple is mysteriously excluded?

Back to the health study.  They write that the reason they excluded the “government health care plans” is that, well, those people must be really sick already.  Doesn’t that imply that the results were that people on government insurance did poorly, but they aren’t going to report that?

imageThey even mention they had to do all sorts of adjustments to “even out” various factors for the differences between the “insurance” group and the “no insurance” group.  Things like income, smoking rates, rates of obesity, different patterns of exercise among the groups, even assessments of their current health.  So, we are to believe that the study authors were able to compensate for all these factors, including current health, (the very reason cited for not including the government insurance in the results) but were somehow unable to do these same compensations to get an accurate view of government supplied health care?

I smell a rat!  What would congressman Grayson’s sign say if they included the government health care in the study?