Sunday, December 31, 2006

Religion Tour #6, Gospel Lighthouse Pentecostal

A few years back, I went to bat for Gospel Lighthouse as they battled the city over an occupancy permit. The jist of it was that GL had the permit already, but the city, led by Mayor Becker, sought to prevent their occupancy, presumably so the property could be sold and turned into riverfront condos. The city probably realized they had no legal, not to mention moral, leg to stand on, so they backed off. GL is located at 6th and Memorial, in the former home of the REAL School.

As for the service, I probably couldn't be more mismatched, insofar as I tend to be something of a detached observer, while the GL congregants were very expressive in their faith. Lots of singing, swaying, amens, etc...

Pastor Ray Christensen gave a talk about a conversation that he had with a curious agnostic. The conversation was going nowhere, apparently, when Pastor Ray changed tactics. Rather than try to win the debate, he talked about the love Jesus (and Pastor Ray) had for the agnostic. Pastor Ray noticed a change in attitude from the agnostic, who seemingly was thirsting for more, according to Pastor Ray's interpretation of the exchange.

I can say that the congregants were quite welcoming. Several shook my hand to introduce themselves. The associate pastor gave me a brief overview of the history of the Pentecostals. I had to leave a bit early to go to work. I would have preferred to stay. I found the music quite nice and the people warm and friendly.

Journal Times Socialist Manifesto

Don't bother reading the JT's commentary today. I will summarize it for you.

If you want something, the government should provide it for you.
Beware of the private sector.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Racism Sans Racists

In the comments following a recent blog entry entitled "Rejecting Racial Representation", I encountered an anonymous blogger who laments the "many organizations right here in racine that subscribe to racial representation for white people." Yet despite my numerous pleas, anonymous was unable or unwilling to identify even one of the organizations, much less offer any evidence to support his/her claim.

The mindset of the anonymous blogger is hardly unique. But why complain about racism without identifying the racists?

As it happens, I have a theory that addresses this question. It serves the purposes of many people to have a problem with racism. I will get to who those people are a little later. It is best if the problem is vaguely and broadly defined, such that specific allegations must be avoided at all costs. Specific allegations of racism must deal with the vexing problems of facts, evidence, proof etc... Vague allegations can conveniently disregard evidence. Racism, of course, exists, and is harmful to both the racist and the subject of the racism. But for some, it is not all bad, insofar as it provides a useful excuse for personal failure. And lets face it, most of us would prefer to find external causes for our shortcomings. So the beneficiaries of the vague racism problem are blacks who would prefer to blame others for their failures. But it is not only blacks who benefit from the vague racism allegations. Whole careers are available for those who perpetuate the vague racism problem, and they must keep the story going or lose their livelihood. In addition to a livelihood, these folks also get to enjoy a feeling of moral superiority over the masses of supposed racists in our midst. Racism, vaguely defined, is an industry. An industry that must be confronted.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

On Blogger Candidates

Fred Dooley of has announced his candidacy for alderman of the 7th district in Racine. Of course I wish him well, but that is not the point of this blog post.

As an obsessive observer of politics and the antics of politicians, I would like to share some of my observations about the differences between bloggers and politicians. Political bloggers, if they are to have any interested readers, will have to say something. Politicians, on the other hand, will usually try to get elected by saying nothing.

I find it very irritating to try to figure out what a politician might actually do once in office, as they are skilled in the art of speaking well without actually saying anything. As such, you don't know what you have until it is too late. For example, did any of our politicians promise the barage of tax and fee hike proposals that we are presently seeing? No, they did not.

On the other hand, blogger candidates will have a record of their thoughts, positions, attitudes, etc... such that a voter will have a much better idea of what he is voting for, or against. I find this to be a very positive development.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rejecting Racial Representation

I was having a conversation the other day about the redistricting controversy at Racine Unified School District. The Racine chapter of the NAACP is opposed to the idea of neighborhood schools, as they prefer efforts towards greater desegregation. I wondered aloud whether the NAACP is very representative of the average black person. Then I wondered how I would feel if an organization presumed to represent my interests because I have whitish skin.

I can tell you that the very idea would be abhorrent to me. My views, my hopes, my dreams are not the inevitable result of my whiteness. I have spent the better part of my life thinking, reflecting on experience, etc... as I attempt to carve out a consistent, logical, and moral world view. It would be insulting to think that a group could presume to represent my interests by consulting a color chart. I am more than that. And so are black people.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Religion Tour #5, Beth Isreal Sinai Congregation

I almost missed this service. Both the front and side doors were locked, so I hopped in my van to leave when I noticed someone entering an unmarked door on the other side of the building. I entered to find about a half dozen people and asked if it was OK to observe their service. They all introduced themselves and were exceedingly helpful in guiding me through the service. This included informing me that the Torah and the other book (name escapes me) were read from right to left instead of left to right. The service was quite long and much of it was in Hebrew. I was surprised that nearly all the congregants, by this time numbering about twenty, were able to speak Hebrew. I was told later that most probably did not know what they were reading. I got by because the readings were accompanied by an English translation. One of the readings that I found interesting was the story of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers, later rose to prominence because of his ability to interpret dreams, predicted seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. His brothers later showed up seeking food and Joseph sort of toyed with them without revealing his identity. After the service a meal was offered and I ate lox for the first time. Not bad. The rabbi, who had recently lost his father, talked at some length about the rules governing mourning, which include beard growing (not sure why) and covering mirrors as it is not a time to look at your image but rather to reflect on the departed. I can't say I learned a whole heck of a lot about Judiasm but seeing as it is the first monotheistic religion with an enormous influence on both past and present, I am interested in learning more. I was told that a good book to read is called "Basic Judiasm" by Milton Steinberg. I think I will read it.

Madison Prohibitionism

The city of Madison has an alcohol coordinator. In the hundred plus years of its existence, Madison has managed without an alcohol coordinator. So the new coordinator is naturally tampering with the heretofor voluntary coordination of alcohol related activity. Until now, people interested in drinking alcohol did so at establishments run by people interested in selling alcohol. But with binge drinking identified as the problem dejour, this will no longer do.

Enter alcohol coordinator Joel Plant. He is proposing a ban on new bars. This is clever insofar as he may gain the support of some bar owners who would enjoy the protection from competition and the profits that would flow as a result of the ban.

Thankfully, some are fighting back. City Council President Austin King is opposed to the ban. "It is a huge fear of mine that this modern prohibitionist bent that we're headed around will drive students out of the bars and into less safe drinking environments."

A ban on new bars will do nothing to stop binge drinkers. It does undermine property rights and it may endanger more drinkers. Not a good idea.

City Will Fail in Real Estate Speculation

The city of Racine is finalizing the purchase of two buildings and some land adjacent to the site of the anticipated Metra depot. Many on the JT web site are appluading the action. Not me.

First, the city is overpaying (more than assessed value) for property that will only increase in value if the Metra does come to Racine. So the city of Racine is engaging in risky real estate speculation with our money.

Also, the city of Racine has a recent history of failure when delving into real estate. For example, they have shelled out large amounts of our money to tear down businesses in West Racine, in the hopes of luring a developer to the area. At present, they have failed to do so. Developers know that the city has deep pockets, so they will ask for tax credits, a reduced purchase price, and anything else they can squeeze out of the city. The city recently took a building next to mine in downtown Racine. After losing a court dispute, they had to fork over more cash to the former owner. They then sold the property at a big loss to someone else. The building remains vacant.

Granted these are anacdotal examples of mismanaged real estate ventures, but why should anyone assume that city officials will be better at real estate speculation than the people who do this for a living? The reason why the city, any city, will more likely lose money in these deals is because they are playing with money that doesn't belong to them. It is easy to take risks when others suffer the consequences of your mistakes. Additionally, there is an upside that is visible, while the downside is a largely invisible number on a sheet of paper. Thus the mistakes made by our amature real estate speculators will not become widely known to the public.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Religion Tour #4, Buddhism

I know a reporter at the Journal Times who invited me to last nights dharma talk. As it was described to me, it seemed the best opportunity to find out a bit about Buddhism.

Now, at the risk of offending the JT reporter, I felt as though I was among people who were "playing" religion, like children might play doctor. This says nothing about my attitude towards Buddhism and everything about my attitude towards the Journal Times. Roughly 25% of the group had a JT connection.

The evening started with the dozen or so people putting on gray robes with a red sash/apron. Thankfully I was not required to wear it. The purpose of this exercise, as it was described to me, was to not be distracting with our clothing choices. I honored their request to remove my shoes. By the way, everyone there was quite nice and welcoming.

My afformentioned attitude can mostly be attributed to the fact that JT city editor Dustin Block led a discussion of sorts. I like Dustin and I think he is a kind and gentle well meaning person, but lets just say it is unlikely he will ever be my spiritual guru. He talked about the peace that he felt when working on a collaborative painting, and about a strianed relationship at work that has improved of late, seemingly a result of Dustin's improved inner peace.

During a question and answer period with the Abbot Linda Somlia, I asked about the likelyhood that inner peace will be of much use when confronted by external hostility. There doesn't seem to me a very satisfactory answer to that problem.

My tentative conclusion here is that seeking inner peace and quiet is can be a wonderful exercise. And inner peace can be helpful in dealing with lifes difficulties. However, in the face of real external dangers, it seems of limitted usefullness.

Monday, December 18, 2006

More on Global Warming

Kathy and I have had a spirited discussion on global warming. See "Becker on Global Warming" if you want to take a look. Anyway, the Wall Street Journal had an interesting editorial on the subject of U.S. vs Europe and greenhouse emmissions.

The bottom line, despite greater economic and population growth, emmissions growth has increased more slowly in the U.S. in recent years. And the following pretty much sums it up:

"If global-warming activists were as interested in lowering air temperatures as they are in expanding the role of the state, they'd understand that the key to reducing carbon emmissions lies in unleashing the private sector, not capping it. That's the real lesson from the policies- and the results- in Europe and the U.S.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Religion Tour #3, Grace Church

I had been curious about this one. It had the look of one of those mega-churches from the outside. And I had never been in a Baptist church before.

The church itself was an impressive structure. Two large screens had the lyrics for the songs and the Bible passages that were being read. The main church was two tiered and sloping downward towards the stage. I don't know what else to call it. It looked like a stage and performance was a big part of the service. There was a band, lots of singing etc... The congregants were more expressive than I am used to. Several, at various times, would reach one or both arms out towards the sky. Was this a sincere expression of faith and joy or an effort to seem like a sincere expression of faith and joy? I don't know the answer to that question, as it could depend on the person, but it did strike me as a bit strange.

The message was interesting, starting with a reading from the Bible, a parable about vines and branches and fruit. If I could summarize the basic message, it was that the branches, us, can not bear fruit independent of the vine, God/Jesus.

Not a bad experience overall. I talked with a few people that I knew. The sermon was interesting. I got the sense that this church is somewhat ahead of the game insofar as recruitment goes. It was big, lively, and I got the sense that they were probably employing professional marketing skills to the whole operation.

Friday, December 15, 2006

McReynolds, Vos: Tax Hike Supporters?

My first foray into local politics began a few years back when the Racine County Board was wrangling over the issue of building an indoor ice skating rink. Needless to say, I opposed the idea. I felt that, at the very least, Racine County residents should be able to decide this issue via referendum. Yet, the supervisors who supported the rink idea were adamantly opposed to allowing voters to decide the issue directly. I thought that was ridiculous. I thought that a new ordinance could address this problem. I worked with my county supervisor Ken Vetrovec, who introduced an ordinance proposal which would have required expensive "quality of life" projects to be approved by direct citizen vote. The measure was going nowhere and I was getting more than a little irritated. Eventually, the measure came to a vote in the executive committee and was soundly defeated. Robin Vos offered a nonsense rationale for voting against the measure, and it was suggested to me at the time that he was doing the bidding of County Exec Bill McReynolds who was opposed to my proposal. So why is this relevant now?

Because if my proposed ordinance had passed, the funding for "quality of life" projects would be decided on a per project basis by Racine County voters. But now a task force, initiated by Bill McReynolds, has proposed a 1/2% sales tax increase for the purpose of funding "quality of life" projects. If it passes, voters will have much less say about which "quality of life" projects to approve. So if we support the proposed $69 million tax increase, it is likely that we will end up paying for a whole lot of expensive projects that we don't really want.

And I could have put and end to this nonsense two years ago, were it not for the opposition from our two most noted conservatives, Robin Vos and Bill McReynolds.

Reforms Always Fail, Except This Time

If there is one constant in public education, it is calls for reform. But according to Dr. Hicks, every urban school distict that has ever attempted reform, has failed. And he is right. But somehow he has managed to convince virtually all of Racine's movers and shakers that he can reform our district. Why do seemingly smart people believe that Dr. Hicks can accomplish what has repeatedly failed everywhere else?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hick's Message

I went to the state of the schools address today. Here is what Superintendent Hick's had to say: RUSD faces serious challenges, we are moving in the right direction, have faith.

Thinking Beyond Stage 1

A few years back I read a book by Thomas Sowell that had a tremendous impact on my thinking. The book has a very boring title and I still don't know what possessed me to pick it up and read it. It is called "Applied Economics" and subtitled "Thinking Beyond Stage 1." I will apply some of what I learned in that book to address the problem of one pending government mandate requiring sprinkler systems in appartments with three or more units.

Stage 1 is quite attractive. Sprinkler units may save some lives. Who could oppose an initiative that could save an innocent child from dying in a fire?

Sowells book suggests that you think beyond this stage. What will happen when the cost of building apartment units goes up substantially while the cost of building single unit housing does not go up? Answer: Developers will build single unit housing because there will be more demand for it because of the less onerous mandates and costs. This will contribute to more sprall, more roads, more environmental damage, more gas consumption, more traffic deaths, more time lost in vehicles etc...

Where will the poor people live? Answer: Since the cost of multiple dwelling units will go up, they will be even more out of reach for the poor. The poor will be stuck in the multiple units that they are in now. Fewer new multiple housing units will be built, so the older ones (most likely grandfathered in with no sprinkler systems) will become somewhat more valuable as they face less competition from newer units. But the poor have limitted incomes with few options. Owners of the multi-unit apartments will have no incentive to improve their facilities (sound familiar?), because their tenants can't afford to pay extra for the improvements and because the landlords are protected, by the sprinkler law, from competition by new housing units. Thus the poor will be huddled in unsprinkled, deteriorating, overpriced housing.

So I oppose the new sprinkler law because it will segregate and endanger the poor while resulting in urban sprawl, overconsumption of gasoline, more traffic fatalities, more cash in the hands of Middle Eastern despots etc....

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

For Your Amusement

My brother is an economist in Washington DC. He sent me the following e-mail:

I've been reviewing some applications from newly minted PhDs. Highlights from the applicants so far: Names have been changed to protect the innocent(s)

Cover letters:
I have also substantially improved my communication skills by actively joining the renounced speech club, "Toastmaster International"
I also have a diverse level of written communication skills.

From the Recommendation letters:
Matt's paper makes two important contributions. First is a policy contribution, but second is a significant mythological contribution on problems with measurement error in imputing tax prices.

And my favorite in the raised eyebrow department:
Susan has large, positive externalities....These externalities explain why I have latched onto her as my primary co-author.

Sorry but I can not attach a photo of Susan's large positive externalities.

Dousing Your Freedom

The Journal Times weighed in, sort of, on a battle brewing over a "Department of Commerce proposal that would require sprinkler systems in condos and apartment buildings with at least three dwelling units." The JT conclusion, of sorts, is "The people of Wisconsin deserve first class fire protection for their dwellings, but it should be done in the most cost-effective way, one that balances saving lives and saving livelihoods."

Well duh! But they have dodged the question of whether requiring sprinklers would be the most cost-effective way to balance lives saved and livelihoods saved.

The answer should be to keep our present arrangement, wherin these decisions are made by builders, owners, and renters. It is they, rather than government bureaucrats, who have the information needed to make the wisest decision.

My suggestion is that any lawmaker who wishes to vote in favor of this requirement should first be required to retro-fit his/her home with a sprinkler system. Only then will they have some understanding of the costs that they wish to impose on others.

Sustainable Racine No Longer Sustainable

The Journal Times ran a story today announcing the closing of Sustainable Racine. Here is one guy who will not be shedding any tears. Though the staff were friendly and well intentioned, their philosophy was harmful to Racine. Lets just say thet they never seemed to encounter a problem that didn't have a government solution. More power in the hands of government means less in the hands of individuals. The closing of Sustainable Racine is one step in the direction of a free Racine.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Religion Tour #2

For some time now I have considered visiting our many local churches and sharing my observations on this site. I am motivated in part by a curiousity about people and the beliefs that they hold. But I am also somewhat open to the idea of joining a church. I say somewhat because the very idea conflicts with my tendency towards independence. But perhaps I am missing something, and that is what I am setting out to explore.

Now you might be wondering why I have entitled this entry as Religion Tour #2 instead of #1. That is because I visited Grace Lutheran Church last week, where I met Preachrboy, aka Reverend Tom Chryst.

This week I attended St. Paul's Catholic Church on Spring Street in Mount Pleasant. And now it is time for a confession. My mind drifted regularly from the message offered by the priest as I wondered about the future of the church. Though the church was quite full of parishioners, and the church itself very new and fancy, I couldn't help but notice that the vast majority of worshippers were quite old. Without an influx of new members, I wondered how they will survive. I suspect that St. Paul's is not the only church that will need to grapple with this problem.

But my sociological observations did not stop there. In addition to being quite old, the parishioners were all white. I understand that people tend to gather among those whom they are most comfortable with, so I am not in the least surprised by this. In my youth, I attended St. Joseph's Church, against my will. While I am quite far from being a religious scholar, I can safely state that racial segregation is probably not exactly what Jesus had in mind for his followers. So I am left wondering whether people are members of their churches for extra-religious reasons. I have no other explanation for the obvious racial segregation. If people joined churches entirely because of shared beliefs, then I suspect that we would see much less segregation. I hope Preachrboy will be willing to offer his views on this subject.

Next week. A Wiccan ritual sacrifice of a black cat. Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Becker On Global Warming

"I don't care if people believe in it or not," said Racine Mayor Gary Becker. "To me, why even argue the point? All the things to reduce global warming are things we should be doing anyway."

Like what sort of things? Well, we could use less energy, reduce mercury contamination from coal-fired power plants and reduce the nations involvements overseas, according to Becker. "Do the right things, and leave the debate about global warming alone."

Wow! Now I think we humans have a responsibility as stewards of the earth, but must we follow the dictates of King Becker without any debate?

Even if we assume that the earth is warming (much evidence suggests so) and that humans and their pollution are substantial contributors to the problem ( less evidence), does it follow that Beckers proposed solutions should be followed without debate?

Debate is sorely needed. Is global warming all bad, mostly bad, or would the good outweigh the bad? The folks in northern Canada, if there are any, might just welcome some warmer weather.

But lets assume that global warming is all or mostly bad and that it is caused by humans. Do we then follow Becker without debate?

No, because we would need to consider the cost of Beckers suggestions versus the potential benefits. For example, reducing energy use in some parts of the world could contribute to poverty. Would reducing our involvements overseas slow global warming? Would this be worth it if the result was the unchecked spread of religious extremism and terror?

I wish things were as easily solved as Becker seems to think they are.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Businesses Attacked for Urban Problems

I just finished reading a commentary from the Monday JT entitled "City lacks leadership, vision for the poor and under-served", written by self proclaimed leader Elliott Cohen, CEO/President of Abundant Life Christian Center.

"As one of the African-American leaders in the city of Racine, I am appalled and ashamed of the continuous neglect and absolute disdain for the poor and under-served communities in our city." writes Cohen.

He goes on to describe the laundry list of problems from joblessness, high dropout rates, violence, drug use, as well as some positive developments that mainly "benefit a certain population of the city".

Now here is his final paragraph: "Finally, let's challenge this city economically if situations do not change through boycotts and other effective nonviolent strategies to changing the status quo."

Which leaves me wondering, which business or businesses should be held accountable for the murders, drug use, joblessness and education failures that plague our city? A better idea would be to boycott the government that helps perpetuate these inner city problems.

The Right To Be Heard

I was catching a glimpse of an interview of Supreme Court Justice Breyer the other day. I don't have a transcript of the interview, so I will not be able to provide exact quotes. Breyer was defending the courts decision on the McCain-Feingold law. Basically, Breyer was saying that both sides of this debate had realistic first ammendmant claims. The losing side argued that free speech was being denied by the restrictions on campaign financing. But Breyer supported the view that prevailed, by saying that the speech of someone with only a dollar could be drowned out by the person with $20 million. And a new right, not found in our constitution, was created right before my eyes. The right to be heard.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bloggers Exposed

I met preachrboy today in the receiving (departing?) line after accepting his invitation to attend his church service at Grace Lutheran Church. He mentioned that he had met another blogger recently and thought it might be fun to get together for coffee and conversation. I had been thinking about this anyway, and would love to meet any and all visitors and contributors to FreeRacine. Of course, for some of us, we would risk losing our anonymity. I would love to hear from you all on this subject especially. Would you like to get together, or do you prefer to keep intact your anonymous status? I envision a gathering at Java Vino, a smoke free coffee shop that also serves wine. I might even be persuaded to purchase the first drink or two for attendees. But first, I must know if you think the idea has any merit. Let me know. Denis.

Ethical dilemma

Help me, fellow bloggers, as I grapple with a perplexing interpersonal problem. Last night I was out to dinner with my family and a couple that we have known for several years. I consider them both to be very generous and kind people and I consider myself fortunate to be among their friends. We were speculating on the ethnicity of some little children who were playing nearby, and I mentioned that when I first met my friend, I was initially mistaken about his/her ethnicity(I don't want to give any clues about the identity of said individual). When asked, I indicated that I thought he/she was black. Friend became increasingly angry about this, said that I was ignorant about his/her ethnicity, said I had insulted him/her, was angry that I did not apologize, and refused to hear anything further from me on the subject. With no opportunity to defend myself, I excused myself from the table, apologized for the unpleasantries, and waited in the car until the others had finished their meal. And this is where we stand.

My question to you is whether or not I owe an apology for a mistaken initial judgement made several years ago? The reason that I am presently hesitant to do so is because I don't think it is an insult to be mistaken for a black person. Should I likewise apologize to actual black people for the misfortune of being black? Please weigh in fellow bloggers, but keep in mind that I would like both of my friends to remain friends if at all possible.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Move Over Rosa Parks

What do the Boston Tea Party, the civil rights and women's suffrage movements, and Ken Hall's campaign against Bill McReynolds have in common? Well, according to an commentary written by County Board supervisor Ken Lumpkin, each addresses a legal injustice. The "legal injustice" Lumpkin is referring to is Bill McReynold's admitted use of county phones for personal business while serving as County Executive. Why would a black man want to diminish the importance of the civil rights movement by comparing it with a transparently political effort to discredit a local politician? So far as I can tell, Lumpkin's commentary was not intended as humor.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Finders Keepers?

According to a letter written by Robert Mozol to the Journal Times, Racine alderman Pete Karas "found" $260,000 in the city budget. The money could be used, according to Mozol, to fund some of the fire, police or public works positions that have apparently been eliminated.

"Why wouldn't they want to use the found money? I'm sure all of us would use found money for something!", Mozol writes.

I am sure Mozol could find uses for the money. Of course, I was always taught that if you find money, you should return it to the owner. Someone should tell Mr. Mozol who owns the money.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Karas on Guns

Several months ago, Racine city alderman Pete Karas took a strong stand against allowing the Racine Police department to accept free gun safety material intended to help keep children safe. And this week, Pete Karas voted against taking a strong stand against a bar that was cited for having, in addition to 21 underage drinkers, three concealed handguns. So, pictures promoting gun safety are bad. Concealed handguns in bars are good. The left is a constant source for amusement, except this one is not funny.

Agitaters Wanted

Sustainable Racine is seeking anti-smoking zealots. Here is the plea:

Committee members are needed for the Smoke Free Committee of Sustainable Racine. Meetings are held at Sustainable Racine at 9:30 on the second Monday of the month. Volunteers are also needed to do telephone surveys to restaurant managers either from your own home or from the Volunteer Center.

I will make one slam dunk prediction. The results of the telephone survey will confirm that restaurant managers favor a smoking ban.

Friday, November 24, 2006

We be jammin

"Don't jam your religion down my throat" is a common, crude, and faulty argument advanced to oppose religious displays on public property. I think this can be best illustrated by using the same crude example. We all know that many cities have gay pride parades on public streets. And this begs the question. What are they jamming down our throats?

For the record, my issue is not with gay pride parades. It is with the use of crude and flawed logic.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Addicted to Government

It is only a matter of time before a ban on smoking is proposed for Racine's bars and restaurants. And lets face it, smoking causes harm to smokers and can cause discomfort and possible harm to those near to smokers. For many, this is all the justification needed to ban smoking.

I also suspect that many smokers are addicted to cigarettes. Addictions are bad. Just about anything can be addicting. Like an excessive reliance on government intervention. Some people just can't get enough. As soon as one law is passed, they will seek another. If no new laws are passed, they will become irritable. Soon hysteria sets in, followed by dementia. We need to help these people. There should be a law.

Share The Square

As the inevitable controversy unfolds over a Christmas display on Monument Square, it is worth taking an interest in the outcome. The position of the opponents of the display can be summarized as follows: Don't shove your religion down my throat. But if religious displays are forbidden on Monument Square, will this not be secularism shoved down our throats?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Saving Catholic Schools

I am saddened but not surprised by the financial difficulties facing some of our local Catholic schools. With taxes fully supporting a $12,000 per student public education, it is no wonder that little money remains for private schooling. As such, the effort to save our local Catholic schools is likely to fail unless private school advocates address the $12,000 to $0 funding gap between public and private education in Racine. Addressing this imbalance will necessitate entry into political debate. Public funding of education is a political decision. The Milwaukee voucher program has passed constitutional muster. Vouchers could save private schools that are substantially and unfairly harmed by a $12,000 funding imbalance. I doubt that private school advocates can save the private schooling option without addressing this political and financial discrimination.

Equality vs Excellence

Can a society pursue excellence and equality at the same time?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Open Thread

I never thought I would copy an idea from the JT, but I will be away from my computer until Wednesday, and I would love to have some content to come back to. So blog away please.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Political Correctness 101

This is one post that could haunt me if I ever ran for public office. So, on the outside chance that I do, understand that I am just kidding. So lighten up already. Here goes.

I am concerned about the stigma attached to the term "homeless." A far more sensitive phrase would be "free range humans".

More MacNonsense

I tried to post this comment on the JT website, regarding calls for an investigation into Bill McReynolds personal phone calls while at work as our County Exec. My posts at the JT are sometimes denied because I have dial up service and the IP address sometimes matches that of a person who has been banned from posting. Anyway, here it is.

I am all for cleaning up government, but I don't understand this at all. Making personal phone calls from work seems to me a minor offense if that. The County Exec and Sheriff positions are not 9 to 5 operations. As such, any normal person would have to conduct some personal business during the day if, for example, he had a meeting in the evening. I suppose the answer would be to use a personal cell phone for such occasions. However, a call to Robin Vos, a friend, government official and business partner, could have elements of county business, friendship, and business related matters all in the same call. Do we really want to require our elected officials to use different phones for each aspect of a conversation? We could take this a step further. Suppose Mac is driving the CE car to an official function. On the way, he sees a friend. He pulls the car over to say hello. Should he be investigated for using a government car for personal use? Should he reimburse the county for the gas used while the car was idling? Should he turn off the ignition or would that neccessitate reimbursement for wear and tear on the starter?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Drinking While Black

I attended the License and Welfare Committee meeting this evening as I am interested in seeing how the city intends to handle the blatant violations of the law which occurred at the City Haul Lounge. After much wrangling, the committee voted to pursue due process hearings, which could result in a suspended or revoked license for the owner, Leonard Hand.

While I think the committee made the right decision, I am more intrigued by one aspect of Hand's defense. Hand has now stated repeatedly that he will ensure that the problems, which include underaged drinking and gun possession, will be remedied, in part, by his decision to discontinue the playing of hip-hop music. It is quite clear, to me at least, that the word hip-hop is a kind of code for black. In other words, Hand seems to be saying that he will see to it that his bar will try to discourage black people (or at least the troublemaking black people) from frequenting his establishment. In fairness to Hand, this is not the first time I have heard prospective or embattled license holders swearing off hip-hop music. Swearing off hip-hop music is a popular strategy to gain favor with city council members. As an aside to Alderman Helding, a frequent reader of Free Racine, I am not suggesting that it is necessarily a winning strategy, only a popular one.

At any rate, in this day of hypersensitivity, I find it hard to believe that a white bar owner could say anything of the sort without angering some black people. I believe it was obvious to everyone in the room that Hand was delivering a coded message, telling the committee members that he will discourage young blacks from entering his bar. I would think some people would find this a bit upsetting. I do.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Too Little, Too Late

I don't mean to continually harp on the blatant political partisanship routinely displayed by the Journal Times, but I must comment on their recent stern commentary directed at Governor Doyle. Now that the election is over, the JT decides to point out the scandalous behavior of our governor. That knowledge may have come in handy before the election, but they choose to try to keep their readers in the dark in a transparent effort to get Doyle reelected. I must be old fashioned. I thought the purpose of a newspaper is to report the news.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wisconsin Voters Bipolarized

I will leave the post game political analysis for others, but I can't help but pass on one observation. Republicans statewide took it on the chin while the conservative causes (marriage protection, death penalty) prevailed. Could it be that Wisconsinites like conservative ideas but not conservative politicians? Or perhaps Republican politicians are not behaving like conservatives? Would any of my fellow bloggers wish to take a stab at explaining this phenomenon?

Horlick Students Used for Liberal Political Causes

Yesterday was election day. And if you are a Horlick student involved in liberal activist clubs, its time to leave school and get liberals out to vote. Of course, administrators at Horlick would not describe their activities as partisan political activity. They would describe this as non-partisan education on the political process. The claim in the past is that students are merely urging voters to the polls, not advocating for candidates or causes. Sounds like non-partisan activity, right? It might be except the canvassing is performed in the ten wards with the lowest voter turnout. And these areas of low voter turnout have higher concentrations of voters who would vote Democratic. Therefore, to the extent that these students are successful, they are increasing the odds for Democratic candidates. Or, to be more blunt, they are engaging in partisan political activity, with the active support of public school personel, when they should be in school. Now, if they actually were attempting a non-partisan education field trip, they would choose their canvassing areas randomly throughout the RUSD boundaries. But they won't do that unless they are forced to do so. Perhaps a school board member should make an issue of this. Or perhaps I will.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Check the Judges

I will be voting "yes" on the marriage amendment, albeit uncomfortably. My reasons have less to do with marriage or the aspirations of homosexuals and more to do with protecting our system of checks and balances. Increasingly in our country, our constitution is being undermined by judges wishing to creatively interpret the document to further political objectives. In doing so, they are removing power from voters, and upsetting the proper and delicate balance of power. This problem is a great threat to our country and it should worry you regardless of your political orientation. Today it is primarily liberals creating novel interpretations of our constitution. Tommorow it could be conservatives. The threat of runaway judges is far more dangerous than gay marriage. I will be voting "yes" to protect our way of life, where voters and their representatives make the laws, while judges refrain from policy making.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Front Page Editorials

Journalism or advocacy, you be the judge. The JT had a front page article entitled "It's not just about gays." In the article, we heard from people like Jason Collum, a gay man who said "Gay people have no rights now, so even a no vote maintaining the status quo won't make a difference... The people who will really be affected are heterosexual couples." Affected how? Well, in Ohio, "courts are trying to decide whether women who are physically abused can file domestic battery charges against their live-in boyfriends." And then there is "the possibility that shareholders could file a suit ...demanding that a company end its unconstitutional domestic partnership benefits." And on and on. What was missing from this article was any viewpoint, counter arguments, or perspective from marriage amendment advocates. Fair and balanced? Not in the least. Just more evidence of the JT's slide from newspaper to political organization.

Ditch the Straw Man

Perhaps I am a little dense, but I finally figured out the Journal Times editorialists' favorite technique for advancing their point of view. It is the intellectually dishonest "straw man" argument. First present a weak or non-existent point of view supposedly held by your opponent, then refute it. Here are some recent examples:

On the marriage protection amendment. Here is the straw man: "Much of the push for the constitutional amendment has come from religious groups who oppose gay relationships as being a sin under their church teachings." And the easy refutation: "It is foolish to think banning gay marriages or civil unions will make gay relationships disappear.

On the death penalty referendum. Here is the straw man: Perhaps "in this day of reality television shows, Wisconsin would welcome back such morbid entertainment." And the easy refutation: "We on the JT editorial board are morally superior than you bloodthirsty Republicans, and have evolved such that we enjoy more sophisticated entertainment, like the opera." OK, OK, they didn't really write that, but I can't quote them directly because their actual opinion is not in their archives. But you get my point, I hope.

This rhetorical technique is quite dishonest, because it avoids and/or lies about the opposing argument. The best argument for a "yes" vote on the marriage amendment is the preempt courts from redefining marriage. But did the JT take on that argument? No. Do people want the death penalty in order to enjoy hangings, or their equivilant, on the public square. Of course not. A better rationale is to prevent further murders and to punish murderers. Did the JT take on those points? No.

Now I will demonstrate how easy this is. Straw man: Homosexual activists are opposed to the marriage protection because they think everyone should engage in homosexual activity. Defeating the referendum will help promote their agenda. And the easy refutation: The consensual sex between consenting homosexuals is their business in our view, but we would urge them to respect those who prefer heterosexual sex.

This kind of argument is for lazy and dishonest people. It has no place in a real newspaper.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Out of the Muck

I have been asked, privately, to help spread info that could be damaging to a local candidate running for office. There is some damning evidence, it seems, but all in all it feels like the kind of last minute political dirt spreading that I find quite distasteful. I will not be spreading this information for three reasons. The accusations seem somewhat petty. There is not much time for the candidate to credibly respond to the charges. And most importantly, I will not let Free Racine become a forum for partisan hackery.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

One Vote for Politics

"I hate politics."

No, I did not say this. But I heard it said recently, and I am kicking myself for not asking a follow up question, such as, "What do you propose as an alternative?"

I consider politics the process wherin decisions are made among people with divergent interests. Usually this refers to public matters as in who we should elect to represent us, or which public policies should be pursued. But politics are everywhere. There are politics at work, politics in organizations, politics among friends.There is even politics at home. Anywhere a decision is made among more than one person, you will find politics.

As I have pondered the above statement, I have tried to think of places where there are no politics. Cuba, Iraq under Saddam, and the former Soviet Union come to mind. These are places where the expression of dissenting political views might lead to imprisonment or murder. How about the Catholic Church? Church doctrine is detirmined through a hierarchy. Families can be absent politics to some degree if one member of the family has the final say in family matters.

Politics can be ugly. People and groups will often decieve, lie, and bribe to achieve their objectives. It is therefore not surprising that someone should say "I hate politics." But unless I am mistaken, the only alternative to politics is authoritarianism, which, in public matters at least, necessitates oppression, coercion and other forms of violence. Given that choice, I will take politics, warts and all.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Guess Who's Teaching Your Children?

RUSD teacher Todd Johnson had this to say about Republicans/Christians:

"Republicans have created a ghoul (I call it the "Christian Racketeer") to make religion a political weapon. They don't get the four most important words in American English: Equal protection under law. Their craving is for autocracy, an ayatollah all their own. They are unfit to mingle with free people."

I am sure that Mr. Johnson is able to contain his contempt for conservatives and Christians while teaching our children. Or perhaps his attitude explains the home schooling movement.

Planning Miracles

Is anyone else amused by Racine's upcoming health care referendum? The question is whether you would like the legislators to come up with a plan to reduce the cost of health care by 15% while also ensuing that everyone is offered affordable health insurance. While they are at it, I think they should come up with a plan to raise the average temperature in Wisconsin to 65 degrees, reduce precipitation to zero, while ensuring greater agricultural output.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Who's your buddy, who's your pal?

I don't often read the letters to the editor before an election, but I did anyway the other day. One letter was a fairly typical plea to readers to vote for their preferred candidates. But what I found most interesting was the following request: "Please join my family and friends as we vote for..."

I suppose it is possible, perhaps even likely, for families to have similar voting preferences, but friends too?

I am looking for some feedback here. Can you, or do you, have friends with whom you disagree politically?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Death Penalty Referendum

It comes as no surprise that the Journal Times would oppose the upcoming advisory referendum concerning the death penalty. "It's a visceral vote" they declare in sentence one. Of course all votes are visceral votes for leftists. If it feels good, vote for it. If it feels bad, vote against it. The very idea of a death penalty is abhorrent to the left, so the JT must oppose this, no matter what. Still, being a newspaper, they must provide reasons to justify their feelings. Lets take a look.

The JT is thankful to be in a state "whose citizens can be assured that they have not put to death an innocent man or woman." They note, however, that we have had our share of bad guys, including Jeffrey Dahmer, who was slain in prison. The JT does not mourn the death of Dahmer, the victim of vigilante jailhouse justice. I suspect they would mourn his death had the state decided to terminate it. The JT's attitude can be summed up as follows: We are not particularly saddened by the murder of Dahmer, but we feel better knowing that we did not condone it.

"The death penalty has not been shown to deter crime in any appreciable way." This sentence was immediately and predictably followed by the words "Some studies..." Their studies may well be correct, but I anxiously await the study detailing the recidivism rate of executed criminals. My hypothesis, awaiting study, is that executed criminals thereafter have a crime rate of zero. If my theory proves true, then execution is the most effective crime deterent.

The JT goes on to describe the "festival" like atmosphere that supposedly surrounded public executions in the distant past. And that, perhaps, "in this day of reality television shows, Wisconsin would welcome back such morbid entertainment." I am sure the JT editorialists are enjoying their moral superiority openly displayed here. I am sure it feels good. It's a visceral vote, remember.

For some, though, votes are registered for purposes other than confirming our feelings. Some people think about their votes. I suspect that the prospect of the state executing an innocent person would be abhorrent to anyone. For the JT, this can be avoided by voting against the death penalty referendum. But would this spell the end of innocent deaths? No, only state sponsored innocent deaths. As the Dahmer murder should make clear, prisoners can still commit murders. Dahmer of course is not an innocent victim, but the point is that prisoners can still commit crimes. And these crimes need not be confined by prison walls. Prisoners can communicate beyond the prison walls, commissioning crimes that could, of course, result in the murder of innocents. As I noted earlier, executed criminals will not be committing any crimes.

So the choice before us is not so simple as the JT would have us believe. Neither vote will protect us from the psychic pain of innocent deaths. The JT prefers the illusion that they are morally superior, though their policy choice may well result in more innocent deaths than a carefully crafted death penalty law. But again, remember, this vote is cast so the JT can feel good and morally superior to others.

The question to me is which policy choice will protect the most innocents. There may come a time when the state executes an innocent person, and this would be a tragedy indeed. But is it any less tragic when an innocent person is murdered when the crime could have been prevented by the death penalty? It is hard to feel good about the difficult choice before us, unless we abdicate our responsibility to protect the innocent, as the JT has done. But votes should not be about protecting our feelings of moral superiority. They should be about thinking and making the best of difficult choices. I will be voting "Yes" on the death penalty referendum, as I think it would protect the greatest number of innocents.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Better Idea for SOS

I have been interested in the efforts of the group SOS (Save Our Station) to prevent the Journal Times from razing an old fire station on Wisconsin Avenue. The group recently e-mailed me an invitation to attend a fund raising party. I don't plan to attend as I would not contribute any money to an organization intent on undermining property rights. But I share their interest in promoting development along the Root River. So I will offer a suggestion that I wish I could claim as my own. My wife recently reminder me that the owners of DP Wigley have an interest in developing their building. I know the Flynns a bit. They are a wonderful couple. They own an amazing old building along the river. There is so much potential in that building. What they need, I suspect, is investors. The energy and enthusiasm of SOS could be put to much better use trying to promote the development of DP Wigley instead of impeding the efforts of the Journal Times.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Dear Jonathan Erwin-Frank

The following is a response to a commentary in the Milwaukee Journal concerning education.

Dear Jonathan,

I read your recent commentary with great enthusiasm, as I share your concerns about the importance of education. It is heartening to find young people engaged in important matters. I hope that you are willing to consider the few points that I have to offer.

You wrote "Not even the most hard-line conservatives would suggest that disadvantaged children do not deserve an education, but some have attempted to change the subject." I admit to some difficulty critiquing the first half of that sentence, but it suggests to me that hard-line conservatives are more inclined than, say, liberals, to suggest that the disadvantaged do not deserve an education. I am not aware of any conservative group, and that includes the Republican Party, to suggest any such thing. So in that respect, it sounds like a gratuitous insult to conservatives. My hope is that you did not intend it that way. With respect to part two of your sentence, I think that for this conservative at least, school choice, competition, or vouchers are not changing the subject at all. To me this is the only reform that might work.

As you continued to develop your argument, you seemed to embrace competition in the form of higher pay for teachers when you wrote "It all boils down to simple economics. If you raise the price, in this case, teacher salaries, suppliers will produce more and more people will want to become teachers, leading to the kind of healthy competition that really benefits schools and children." However, you did not offer any evidence to support your claim.

Ordinarily, you would be correct. Higher pay would result in more people seeking a job. And this would produce better results, assuming that the best teaching candidates were selected and promoted. However, this is not how the public school system works. For example, relative to many other jobs, teacher salaries are quite low relative to their retirement and health benefits. This is no accident, as this is what the teachers unions negotiate for. What you may not realize is the effect this has on competition. For example, a young teacher will receive a low salary and great health benefits. The health benefits here in Racine are in the neighborhood of $20,000 per year for families. Most young people do not need $20,000 worth of health insurance. They would probably prefer the cash, but that is not one of their options. Instead, young healthy teachers actually subsidize the health care costs of their older, less healthy coworkers. The low starting salaries, the costly health insurance plan, and the generous retirement rewards all serve to discourage young people from becoming teachers, unless they are prepared to do so for their entire careers. Also, the job market is changing. People change careers more frequently today. Thus any person who would like to teach for some length of time less than their entire career is also discouraged from becoming a teacher. Also, many bright people have found education degrees to be a monumental waste of time, further discouraging prospective teachers. And finally, teacher pay is not based on merit. It is based on longevity and this is what the union wants. This would discourage the very brightest from becoming teachers, because they will not be properly rewarded for their excellence. Thus they choose other careers. So you see it is not so simple to improve education merely by raising teacher pay. Presently, the system established by the teachers union discourages many people, including our brightest prospects, from becoming teachers. This is done to depress the number of teachers, thus providing an argument for higher salaries and more benefits.

I write to you hoping that you will realize that raising salaries will not necessarily improve education. A larger problem is the stranglehold that the teachers union has on the education system, a problem that could be remedied with more school choice. I suspect that you would not be exposed to this kind of thinking at your school, as it would be contrary to the financial interests of your teachers.

Thank you for your commentary and your interest in this most important of subjects. I will be sharing my letter to you with any readers who visit my blog. If you care to respond, please do so at my blog,

Thanks again. Sincerely, Denis Navratil.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

More Liquor License Nonsense

I attended last nights License and Welfare Committee meeting at city hall. The mishandling of the City Haul underaged drinking/gun toting fiasco was not the only news. It may come as news to some that there is a cap on the number of liquor licenses. After reaching the cap, some additional licenses can be issued, but they cost $10,000. This cap apparently was instituted statewide with the full endorsement of the tavern league, which would make the tavern league much like a union, as this license cap would limit competition for license holders while upping the value of establishments that hold licenses. One perhaps unintended consequence of such legislation was evident last night. The owner of a property that had housed Peg and Lou's was seeking to secure a liquor license, even though he had no intention of operating the establishment. He wants the license, worth $10,000, so that he can more easily sell his building. I can hardly blame him. But if the city is to play favorites and issue licenses to people who don't intend to use them, they are being unfair, to the tune of $10,000, to anyone who does wish to operate an establishment that serves alcohol.

License and Welfare Committee Nonsense

In order to get a liquor license in Racine, an applicant must appear before the License and Welfare Committee. There the applicant will meet stern faced alderman who will lecture them on the consequences awaiting them if they violate the conditions of the license. The alderman will then look into a crystal ball in order to predict which applicants will run a clean establishment. For prospective license holders, I suggest that you not propose a hip-hop dance club. Anyway, some licenses will be denied because the committee wishes to prevent future problems.

Given this serious approach to eliminating future problems, we can be assured that the committee will address actual present day problems with the utmost seriousness. Lets say a license holder had twentyone underaged drinkers and three loaded handguns on the premises. This tough licensing committee would really go after that bar owner, right?

No. Last night members of this committee were quite deferential to license holder Lennie Hand, who has admitted that the bar was indeed filled with underaged drinkers and three loaded handguns. The committee could have voted to go to due process, which is a legal process which could result in suspension or revocation of the license. Instead, they opted to seek a negotiated settlement with Hand, all while complementing his proactive (actually reactive) steps to address the problems.

What kind of message does this send to the community and to bar owners?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Quote of the Day

"Anywhere you have the public frequenting in numbers , you could very well expect this to happen."

This was city parks director Donnie Snow's comment following the recent execution style murder at the King Center.

Isn't it the job of a parks director to bring the public together?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Racine Problems

In a commentary in todays Journal Times, Laura Sumner Coon, former city editor at the JT, implores our elected officials to "work together across party lines to make Racine County a place where all can enjoy life, liberty and happiness." Coon remembers the days, twenty years ago, when our politicians did just that.

Coon lists four areas that our politicians should address. The first area concerns children. One-third of the children in Racine are poor. And our schools are failing to educate them. Coon includes many of the dismal statistics from RUSD. But we must not point to property taxes as the problem, as "RUSD ranks 47 out of 50 in the proportion of property tax that pays for education."

The second concern is economic development. Racine has 9% unemployment. While we have captured some Chicago wealth, we have not retained it. Coon sites a a Public Policy forum that noted "each year, beginning in 1994, Southeast Wisconsin has lost at least $100 million to other regions."

And then there is crime. Racine has as many murders as the national average, 62% more robberies, and 20% more property crimes.

And then taxes. We are not taxed enough apparently. "The average Racine County homeowner paid less than $3,000 in 2006 property taxes, making it one of the lowest property tax-paying areas of the state."

Ok, so there are the issues. We have poor children poorly educated, too much unemployment, we are hemmoraging cash, the crime rate is high, and our taxes are too low.

Coon recalls fondly the days of politicians of yesteryear doing the business of the people. But for as long as I can remember, Racine has been run by Democrats, not Republicans. And now she wants bipartisan solutions to our problems, so long as we all acknowledge how low our taxes are.

Sorry Ms. Coon, but Racine's problems can be traced to decades of liberalism. We have long been known as a destination for welfare recipients. Our high unemployment rate can easily be explained. Why work when others will take care of you? Tax the hell out of the businesses, strengthen the hands of the unions, etc... Sounds good to some I am sure, but then what happens? The wealth leaves, and this would explain the cash flow out of southeast Wisconsin. And the crime? Well, people not working, sucking the life out of a city, are also the types to commit crimes. And the liberals in our midst would prefer to blame this problem on society. So they will do all they can to embrace our criminals. And low tax amounts on property. That is because the property is not worth much. Much has been left to decay. Owners have fled the city. Landlords move in. So do criminals. It is a vicious cycle that the left has created here in Racine. There is not a bipartisan solution. The answer is not higher taxes as you suggest. We have tried that for years. Has it worked? No it hasn't. The answer is lower taxes, free market innovations like school vouchers, a friendly business environment, and a lower tolerance for crime. I don't think any Democrats would embrace any of the solutions to the problems that they created.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

False Headline in JT on RUSD Tax Increase

The headline reads "Unified District proposes 1.08 percent tax increase". But the amount of taxes collected will increase by 11.8%. So which is it? The headline is false because only the tax rate rose by 1.08%. Taxes collected will increase by 11.8%. If you own a home in Racine, and its value increased by the average amount, you will pay about 10.7% more towards RUSD than you did last year. A 1.08% tax rate increase is meaningless and misleading information. RUSD taxes are skyrocketing well past the rate of inflation, but the results are still lousy. A more accurate title might have been "Failing School District Proposes Massive Tax Increase."

Boning the Journal Times

A citizen group named "Save Our Station", led by local architect James Chambers, has won a temporary injunction which prevents the Racine Journal Times from razing Fire Station #5. The Journal Times owns the station and would like to tear it down. There will be a hearing on the matter on November 8th.

The name of Chambers group says it all. "Save Our Station" suggests that they own it, or that the public owns it. They don't and we don't. The city sold the building to the Journal Times many years ago.

But that is not fair, according to Chambers. "It's been an unfair process so far...I just feel in every bone of my body, as do others like me, it's totally inappropriate measure to make a parking lot out of a beautiful site and a beautiful building like this."

Obviously Chambers' bones don't like the idea of private ownership and property rights. It would be far more fair and appropriate, apparently, to be assured that Chambers' bones feel good before a property can be modified.

But maybe Chambers does believe in private ownership. According to the Journal Times article, Chambers said that developers were interested in buying and renovating the building into a "thriving business." Great, let them make an offer that the Journal Times can't refuse.

But don't use our courts to bone the Journal Times.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Public School Tidbits

I went to a special meeting of the RUSD school board the other day. I could not stay long but I thought I might share a bit of news. I listened to a presentation by a guest, Therese Fellner, who would likely be hired to complete a questionaire for the district, mainly for the purposes of gleaning the opinions of respondents on the subject of desegregation and redistricting. The first bit of noteworthy info was the revelation by Fellner that she was invited by Dr. Hicks. Randy Bangs seemed to think that her invitation should have been directed by the board rather than by Hicks. Also, board member Julie McKenna indicated that an anonymous active member of the minority community is concerned that gathering this data will be used simply to avoid desegragation. And finally, in order to get the required number of responses from black people, it is necessary to send twice the number of questionaires.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Indian Restaurant is Good

Some of my readers may know that my wife and I gave serious consideration to opening an Indian restaurant a few years back. We decided against it for a few reasons, and ever since we have been hoping that someone else would give it a go. Tonight we enjoyed a buffet at Sher-a-Punjab, a new Indian restaurant on Douglas Ave. There were some minor service issues, but most of the food was quite good. I particularly enjoyed the lamb curry and a dish called butter chicken. If you have never tried Indian food before, I suggest trying the buffet, as it allows you to sample several dishes. I am thrilled that we now have a good Indian restaurant in town. Give it a try.

Liberal of the Year

I just saw the movie "Man of the Year" starring Robin Williams. Williams plays a comedian/talk show host who runs for president as an independent. This following is what he stands for and against. Against Democrats and Republicans. For education with no specifics. Vague on border issues but believes an open border presents a greater threat than old ladies at airports. For the environment. Against lobbyists. Against oil companies. For, or at least not hostile to gay marriage. And, judging by his behavior, marital status (divorced) and attitude, he is far from a cultural conservative. The movie was mildly entertaining. Robin Williams is funny at times. But the funniest thing about the movie is the straight faced attempt to portray Williams as an independent when everything he stands for is liberal.

Political Advice for Bill McReynolds

As a third place finisher in the race for Racine County Executive, I am probably ill suited to offer political advice to the winner, Bill McReynolds. But I will anyway.

I have in the past complained that Republicans have not presented an alternative to the Democrats educational policy preferences. The Democrat's answer to education problems is to spend more money on education. Local Republicans have offered no alternative suggestions. Thankfully, this is beginning to change. Robin Vos supports school vouchers. Does Bill McReynolds? If he does, he has not been particularly vocal about it.

A Michigan based group called All Children Matter apparently believe that McReynolds would be more inclined than John Lehman to support school vouchers. I doubt they would be spending money slamming John Lehman if they did not think that a McReynolds victory would help their cause.

I can understand the reluctance of Republicans to come out in favor of school vouchers. Unions will muster all their financial and political resources to defeat any such candidate. But this cat is already out of the bag. A union led group has filed a complaint against All Children Matter for violating state campaign laws. The purpose of the complaint, from a political perspective, is to harm McReynolds election hopes by suggesting to voters that he is receiving political support from corrupt and secret out of state sources.

My suggestion to Bill McReynolds is to articulate to prospective voters his stance on school vouchers. It is only fair that voters know what a candidate stands for. Some vocal Democrats already have concluded that he supports school vouchers. They will make it an issue. Very well. Make it an issue. A strong case can be made for vouchers. Many people are rightly disillusioned by the high cost and poor results of the Racine Unified School District. The "we need more of your money" policy offered by Democrats is not working nor will it. Voters are ready for a new idea. Go for it!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Police Chief Endorses Business Harassment Policy

Last time I checked, congregating while black is not a crime. Neither is owning and running an all night convenient store. Even so, the late night crowds gathered at various locations in Racine are described as a "problem" in need of a solution.

New Police Chief Kurt Whalen has endorsed a political solution wherein city officials put pressure on liquor license holders. The pressure includes the threat to take away the liquor license. This process is initiated if the police are called to a business three or more times a month. The business owner will have to "fix the problem" or get a ticket. Ultimately they could lose their license.

To me this appears to be a pass-the-buck type of solution. It is the job of the police to enforce the law. If there are laws being violated, such as selling after hours or selling to minors, then by all means go after the license holders. If not, leave them alone. If some members of the congregating masses are breaking the law, then arrest them. Do not ask business owners to solve the vaguely defined problem of congregating black people.

And herein lies the real "problem". The "problem" is blacks congregating. But nobody wants to actually say that because they don't want a visit from Jesse Jackson. And I don't blame them.

For the record, I don't believe that black people congregating should be described as a problem. People committing crimes are a problem. If some of these black people are committing crimes, then arrest them. If the business owners are committing crimes, then arrest them and take away their liquor licenses. If neither are committing crimes, leave them alone.

Conspiracy Theory Gone Wild

It seems that Bill McReynolds is receiving political support from a Michigan based organization called All Children Matter. According to a letter written to the JT by Jeri Smith, (or Stephen J. Smith in the phone directory) ACM "is an organization which, on the surface, advocates the voucher system for school choice." By inserting the words "on the surface", Smith is suggesting that this education organization has other motives besides advocating for school vouchers. It couldn't be education reform in Wisconsin, according to Smith, who writes "But what does school choice in Michigan have to do with John Lehman and his supposed views on taxes or on any other issues- in Wisconsin?" What could possibly motivate ACM, since according to Smith, it can not be advocacy of school vouchers?

Thankfully, Smith delivers. ACM is funded by Michigan Multi-millionaire Dick DeVos of Amway fame. According to Smith,Devos has a brother-in-law who owns Blackwater Security Company, a business which has won no-bid contracts to provide security in Iraq. "The real reason ACM is interested in this election is because they want to put people in power who will continue to serve the interests of companies like Blackwater."

So there it is folks. Michigan multi-millionaire Dick DeVos has created a bogus school voucher advocacy organization. He has then entered into the fray of a Wisconsin state senate race, not to support the idea of school vouchers, but to help elect Bill McReynolds, who will in turn, wink wink, nod nod, help DeVos's brother in law secure more no-bid federal contracts.

Never mind that school vouchers are a state matter while awarding federal grants is a federal matter. McReynolds, as a state senator, would be powerless to deliver the goods to DeVos's brother-in-law.

Or perhaps DeVos actually believes in the merits of school vouchers.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Novel Idea?

Someone should write a book about the Mark Foley scandal. I am sure it would be a real page turner.


My faith in good government was dealt a severe blow this morning. I am shocked and deeply disturbed to learn that Bill McReynolds, the Republican candidate in our local state senate race, has made personal phone calls while at work. The taxpayers of Racine were bilked out of $13.46. Though McReynolds has acknowledged the accuracy of the charge against him, and has already reimbursed the county, I am nonetheless dismayed at the outrageous behavior. And it doesn't stop there folks. I have a very reliable inside source who has been in McReynold's home. My source tells me that in McReynold's tenure as County Executive, he has brazenly stolen two pens, four paper clips, and some scrap paper from his office. It gets worse folks. McReynold's has on numerous occasions distributed his COUNTY OWNED business cards to people for purposes wholly unrelated to county matters. The only good news I can report here is that, so far as I know, none of the business cards have been offered to underaged male pages.

Friday, October 06, 2006

A Better Approach to Liquor Licensing, Enforcement

In my pre-blogging days, I was an occasional critic of Racine's liquor licensing process. My basic problem with the licensing process was that it allowed our alderman and their constituents to use subjective criteria for detirmining who will, or will not receive a liquor license. The subjective criteria that is most unfair is the political pressure from organized groups who can influence the votes of the alderman. This politicizing of the licensing process allows the larger and more influential group to get the result that they want, at the expense of the individual seeking the license. Licenses then can be denied, and have been, based partly on the bigotry of special interests groups. This subjective/political criteria has been justified because of the need to prevent license holders from operating an establishment that will require frequent visits from the police and because of the difficulty removing licenses from the license holders that violate the law. I have often thought that this process is unfair at best, and potentially racist, at worst. An objective criteria for license holding would be best, such as any non-felon over the age of 21 is eligible for a license.

Now the city has a problem with license holder Lenny Hand who owns the City Haul Lounge. According to the JT, 21 people were cited for underage drinking. Also, three guns were discarded on the floor during the raid.

The city should aggressively enforce the law here. They should seek the maximum penalty, which, I would hope would be license removal. But I suspect that they won't because I have often heard that it can be very costly to do so. Perhaps, but it would be costly as well for Mr. Hand to defend a legal case against him.

At any rate, I think it would be much fairer if we had an objective criteria for gaining access to liquor licenses, coupled with aggressive legal action taken against violaters. If we did so, we would not need to engage in the discriminatory practice of trying to detirmine who will violate the law in the future. But if they do violate the law, nail em. Word would get out that you will lose your license, and lots of money to lawyers, if you break the law. After some time, only law abiding individuals would seek the license, as it would be too costly for the scofflaws.

How to Grow

Lately I have been engaged in discussions about local economic development. I have disagreed with some of the actions of the city council, especially their attempts to limit or prevent certain legal businesses from operating in Racine. The argument in favor of government regulation/restrictions goes something like this. If we prevent or discourage businesses that we don't like, such as pawn shops or payday loan stores, we will clean up our image, and new businesses will be drawn to Racine.

I think that our local politicians would do well to read two articles in todays Wall Street Journal. The first was written by Nobel prize winning economist Milton Friedman, who wrote about Hong Kong's remarkable economic success. After World War II, Hong Kong's financial affairs were run by a man named John Cowperwaite, who "was so famously laissez-faire that he refused to collect economic statistics for fear this would only give governmentofficials an excuse for more meddling." The results of this hands off approach are stunning. Hong Kong, initially dirt poor, now has a per capita income equal to that of Britian, even though Britian has enjoyed remarkable growth as well.

The second article, entitled "Tax Tidal Wave" tells a story you are not likely to hear in most newspapers. "Tax collections have increased by $521 billion in the last two fiscal years, the largest two year revenue increase- even after adjusting for inflation- in American history." Note that this revenue increase is happening AFTER a reduction in tax rates.

The lesson here for any politicians actually interested in achieving economic growth is that all they can do to help is to create an environment conducive to growth. And the Hong Kong success and our own success in the US suggests strongly, if not irrefutably, that the way to do this is to stop meddling in the private affairs of citizens. Decrease taxes and decrease regulations, and sit back and enjoy an economic miracle right here in Racine.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Vouching for Immorality

Are school vouchers immoral? Yes, according to Joe Kieman of Racine. He had this to say in a recent JT editorial: "Vos (State Rep Robin Vos) and his radical buddies also wish to destroy the life-force that drives a community's a state's and a country's economic engine; namely, its public education system. They support unbridled support and expansion of voucher schools that would further sap funds from public schools. This would lead to a dual school system of those children left behind in underfunded dilapidated public schools, while those in voucher and charter schools would thrive. This also is immoral."

Kieman realizes that vouchers would result in students leaving the public schools for better educational oportunities. Though by his own admission those students would thrive, he believes that this would be immoral because the students left behind would be in underfunded and dilapidated schools. If vouchers are immoral, (despite the increased number of thriving students) because of a resulting decrease in public school children and public dollars for public education, then we must conclude that private schooling is also immoral for the same reasons.

Thus, according to Kieman, schools that remove the study of morality from their curriculum are moral, while religious schools that emphasize morality are immoral. The study of religion is immoral while avoiding such study is moral. More students thriving is immoral, while large numbers of students underperforming in public schools is moral. Voters that support Vos are immoral, because he supports a distribution of public funds that would result in more thriving students. Additional choices for parents are immoral, while having fewer educational options is moral. Parents taking charge of their childs education is immoral, while parents who accept a subpar public education are moral.

I send my child to a private school. I support school vouchers for all children. I will strongly support any effort by Robin Vos to bring school vouchers to Racine. And I would be honored if Kieman considered me immoral.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Falling in Line

"McReynolds, falling in line with most Republicans, continued to attack what he sees as unfair Wisconsin taxes that hamper job creation and burden residents."

This line was written by Paul Sloth, a new reporter for the Journal Times.

I wonder why it is necessary to add the words "falling in line with most Republicans." I think of soldiers and school children when I think of people who "fall in line." Both are taking orders from superiors. They are followers, not leaders. They don't think for themselves. If someone is "falling in line" on taxes, he probably is just following orders. He can't actually believe that low taxes would spur economic growth while helping residents. That would be silly. But he wants to get elected, so he must "fall in line" with the greedy Republicans.

I doubt that Paul Sloth meant any harm. I suspect he is just falling in line with his colleagues.

Liberal Education

If there is anything positive about the Journal Times Newspapers in Education series, it is that we can catch a glimpse of the not-so-subtle efforts to indoctrinate our children. Todays focus on "Women in Space", page 8, section B, is a case in point.

The propaganda piece started with the story of pioneering women astronauts who were not chosen for the first space missions. According to the testimony of one astronaut, women were not given the same opportunity as the male astronauts, and astronauts John Glenn reportedly "told Congress that NASA was simply following the country's "social order" of the time."

Local astronaut Laurel Clark "endured and overcame gender barriers" such as Navy rules which barred women from quarters aboard Naval submarines." She also was slighted when upon being "named to the STS-107 Space Shuttle mission, a NASA officer initially assumed that they were referring to her husband, Jonathon, who was also a Naval officer."

Now, please forgive my cynicism, but it appears that the educational message here is not so much to celebrate the accomplishments of these truly extraordinary women, but to advance a political cause. Children are being swayed to challenge our countries sexist male dominated "social order."

If the purpose of this article was to inspire children to become astronauts, the story would have been written quite differently. Instead of focussing on gender discrimination, the article might have told stories of sacrifice, detirmination, supportive families etc... No doubt these women gave up many a night of drunken revelry, instead hunched over a physics textbook until the early morning hours. But that story wasn't told.

The purpose of this article, and public education in general, is not to prepare students to become astronauts, but to prepare them to become liberal activists.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Extreme Equality

"If the educational system in America, and Racine Unified School District being no exception, spent the same amount of money per student on urban schools as they do in suburban schools, there could be significant improvement in academic achievement of youngsters attending urban schools. There are differences in financial support from their parents to augment what the district spends per student in the district. There will continue to be disparities in the academic achievement gap of some students until equal spending per child is fixed.This general degradation of urban schools and now segregation not inherent racial inequality remains one of the major obstacles of the American educational system." These are the words of Beverly Hicks, president of the Racine chapter of the NAACP, and they highlight the dangers of extreme egalitarianism.

Many people would not consider the quest for equality to carry with it any particular danger. But please note that Hick's is concerned that some parents will augment their child's public education with some of their own spending. And this is bad, in her view, and a degradation of urban schools, because it would increase the achievement gap between urban (read black) and suburban (read white) students. One can safely conclude that Hicks believes that if white parents did not augment their childrens education, things would be more equal, not a degradation, and therefore better. However, I suspect that student achievement among blacks will not improve if suddenly all white parents agreed to discontinue the augmenting. Thus equality is more important for Hicks than actual student achievement. And this mindset is particularly harmful to blacks, of course, because they are provided an excuse for failure by their supposed advocate. Instead of decrying the fact that some parents will make financial sacrifices in order to help their children become more successful, Hick's could better serve her black constituents by suggesting that they emulate the parents who are helping their own children.

I will try to highlight the dangers of extreme egalitarianism with a personal example. I have one son, whom I love dearly. I try my best to teach him the values that I think are important and I spend a lot of time with him. While I am certainly not a perfect parent, I can safely say that I am doing a better job than, say, an absentee father. Thus, if I am able to improve my fathering, I will of course widen the parenting gap between myself and the absentee father. And of course, my son will be increasingly better off than the child of the absentee father. Thus I will be contributing to a widening parenting gap, which would be unfair to the orphaned child. I could only decrease the parenting gap, and achieve greater equality, by becoming a worse father.

So starting today, I will begin to beat and neglect my child. I will do so in the name of equality.

Parking Politics

Loyal reader Wade has taken me to task for siding with some public school teachers in their dispute with Racine Alderman Kaplan. So I will explain my position in detail.

It now appears as though Kaplans request for two hour parking on his street was initiated prior to his being elected alderman. As such, Kaplan seemingly enjoyed the same right as anyone else to petition his government. So I am not accusing Kaplan of abusing his power.

My objection is more with Kaplan's attitude that he should have a greater claim on public street parking than other members of the public. Thus I find objectionable his efforts to get the school principal to implore her staff to leave street parking spaces for Mr. Kaplan. I trace my own attitude on the subject to my days in Chicago, when after a large snow storm, people who dug out their cars would save "their" parking spaces by placing old furniture etc... in the vacated space. This kind of action implied an ownership of public streets, coupled with a threat of some harm to anyone who removed the barriers.

The bottom line for me Wade is that I find it disagreeable when people behave as though they own, or have greater rights to, something which is public. By the way, I am still cool.

Monday, September 25, 2006

O'Donnellism at the Journal Times

It seems that Rosie O'Donnell is not the only voice out there intent on demonizing her political opponents. The Journal Times got into the act this morning with an editorial concerning a House of Representatives bill that would require voters to show a photo ID.

JT: For most of "us" the idea of having to show an ID in order to be able to vote is not a big deal.
We show IDs for all kinds of things every day and think little of it.
Of course most of "us" are white.

My take: The JT wasted no time getting to the heart of the matter. You are a racist if you think that photo IDs should be a voting requirement. Can the JT be more insulting to blacks? Does black mean retarded? Perhaps some condescending white people could step in and help the incompetent black people get a photo ID.

JT: Yes, they (Republicans) cloaked it in terms of fighting voter fraud.

My take: There is no way anyone could actually be concerned about voter fraud. Thus the Republicans are cloaking their actual goal, which is, of course, ensuring the misery of black people.

JT: Concern about voter fraud, according to state Rep. Pedro Colon, has been a red herring here in Wisconsin. Even an investigation led by a Republican U.S. attorney found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the wake of the 2004 presidential election. That probe turned up a handful of convicted felons who voted. They didn't know that they couldn't in most cases.

My take: This is the meat of the JT's argument. Note that it is largely irrelevant to the matter at hand. The bill that is being discussed is a federal bill, concerned with fraud throughout the U.S. Yet the JT wants to dismiss the federal bill because they claim that there has not been widespread fraud in Wisconsin.

JT: We urge the Senate to correct this shameful action.

My take: I urge the JT to present cogent, relevant arguments and to stop demonizing those with whom they disagree.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Liberal Leaps of Faith

I have been engaged in a debate with several bloggers on the Journal Times web site. The subject was Rosie O'Donnell's recent comments, wherin she declared that radical Christianity was as much of a threat as radical Islam. The debate revealed more about the religion of modern liberalism than it did about either Christianity or Islam. The following are some of the apparent beliefs of many of todays fringe liberals.

1) Liberals are never wrong, no matter what they say. O'Donnell therefore is correct. The threat of radical Christianity would result in, at worst, jail time for sodomy, no gay marriage, no abortions, and abstinence education, according to the O'Donnell defenders. Yet they could not bring themselves to admit that forced religious conversions, throat slashings, and suicide bombings are a greater threat than losing abortion privileges etc... One must abandon reason to always support the outrageous things that other liberals will say. Leap of faith #1.

2) The magic vagina. Womens rights should be protected, particularly the right to abortions. But the pre-born life has no rights. It has no right to live. This can only make sense if the pre-born child is not a life. Thus, it must be assumed that a glob of non-life, upon passage through the vagina, becomes a life, with all the associated rights, including the right to future abortions. Modern day liberals must believe in the magic, life giving vagina. Leap of faith #2.

3) Government should define marriage while also not defining marriage. One O'Donnell defender said "I do not think government should define whom we should marry." The same person believes that the government should recognize gay marriage. How is it possible to have laws pertaining to marriage, gay, straight or otherwise, without government defining what a marriage is and who may marry? But many liberals apparently believe that there should be gay marriage, while also believing that government should not define marriage. Leap of faith 3#.

The irony here is that many liberals see faith as dangerous, as it is inconsistent with reason. What many don't realize, however, is that they too are practicing an often illogical faith of their own.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Public School Religion

I was talking to a public school teacher the other day. I suspect that she was not aware of my willingness to criticize public education. Anyway, the teacher was very nice, as most teachers seem to be, and obviously committed to helping her students. Her caring and concern for her students was quite sincere. Anyway, I was troubled by our conversation because she was intoducing her students to faith based spiritual guidance. For example, she was giving her troubled students a skull bead whan they made a positive choice, and she had taken her class to visit with noted spiritual leader Deepak Chopra.

Now I would not object to children being introduced to religious or spiritual education or guidance, provided that their parents are made aware of the instruction, and are given alternative choices for their children. But this is not what is happening in our public schools. Can you imagine the uproar if a public school teacher gave rosaries to students or shared with them the power of prayer? All hell would break loose, if you will pardon the pun. But the teaching of religion is OK in public schools, so long as the religion is not Christianity, and so long as the religious instruction aligns with the liberalism taught in our schools.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Mom, Radical Christian Terrorist

Are you worried about radical Christian terrorists? Ever since terrorism expert and talk show host Rosie O'Donnell proclaimed that radical Christian terrorists pose as much of a threat to us as Islamic terrorists, I have been worried sick.

First of all, I am wondering who they are. As there have been no Christian suicide bombings, beheadings, etc... I must assume that the carnage is yet to come. But where are these Christians and how can we stop them?

I wonder if she is referring to my mom. My mom is named Mary. Does it get any more Christian? She has been a true believer all of her life. She attends church, well, religiously. She is a real traditionalist. Until recently, she attended church services that were held in an Latin. Though college educated, she chose to stay at home and raise her kids. Though she is private about matters of faith as well as politics, I suspect that she votes for Republicans. Let's face it. She is a dangerous women.

I now suspect that her cell will strike in one of three areas. Her incessant walking is, I now suspect, is an effort to gather intelligence about the soft targets in her neighborhood. Her bridge club, as they call it, is simply a cheeky name for her radicalized cell. I believe that they are plotting the destruction of our infrastructure, such as our bridges. I also think she could poison our blood supply. She has been giving blood, and gaining the confidence of Red Cross volunteers, for over twenty years.

In these dangerous times, we must do whatever it takes to ensure our safety. Please help Rosie and I expose the threat of radical Christian terrorism, before it is too late.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Local Republican Limits Options for the Poor

I am not a member of the Republican Party, but it is my understanding that they tend to prefer free markets and personal responsibility. They would like to tackle poverty by lowering taxes and deregulating businesses. And they don't want a nanny state. Or at least that is what I thought.

Lately I have been perplexed and disappointed by the activities of Racine Alderman Greg Helding, a Republican. Helding has been leading the effort to limit the number of payday loan stores. In todays Journal Times, Helding has urged the city council to impose a ninety day moratorium on pawn shop openings. Though he doesn't think the city can ban pawn shops, he stated "I will certainly find out."

Helding justifies his actions by saying "I think though (a pawn shop) can be run in a way that provides a service to some folks... you can have people taken advantage of. The last thing you need when they are hurting for cash is to take advantage of them."

No, the last thing you need when you are hurting for cash is for a politician to limit your legal options. Helding is making it more difficult for poor people to borrow money, and now he is making it more difficult for them to sell their possessions for needed cash. With fewer legal options for obtaining money, crime will become a more attractive option.

Healines You Will Never Read at the Journal Times

I can't really blame the Journal Times for the front page story entitled "McReynolds dealings will be investigated." After all, an investigation into the business dealings of a state senate candidate is news. However, the JT has now run several articles concerning unsubstantiated claims against Bill McReynolds. I wonder if they will have five or so front page articles when McReynolds is cleared of the charges. The following are some suggested headlines.

1) Journal Times Duped by Partisan Hacks
2) McReynolds' Campaign Endures Irresponsible Journalism
3) Debatable: Is Journal Times a Newspaper or Political Organization?
4) Is John Lehman Responsible for Shameless Attacks?
5) JT Joins State Senate Race: Will Support Lehman, Attack McReynolds
6) Debatable: Is Truth Overrated?

I will gladly issue an apology to the Journal Times if McReynolds is found guilty of wrongdoing. Will the Journal Times apoligize to McReynolds if he is cleared of wrongdoing? Don't bet on it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Conflicts of Interest Among Public School Teachers

I have been thinking about conflicts of interest quite a bit lately. I would think that anyone involved in public service must confront this problem on a regular basis, as public servants, like all people, have private interests. And the public should be reasonably assured that their interests are not harmed by the private pursuits of public servants.

Public school teachers surely are faced with conflicts of interest difficulties. Like most people, they have private interests that include an interest in being paid well and being offered attractive benefits, among other things. In order to gain higher salaries and better benefits, school teachers need, above all, a political environment that will be aligned with their private interests. Or, to be more precise, they need voters that believe in a political educational system, wherin salaries etc... are detirmined by a political process. And conversely, a compensation system that is detirmined by results or customer satisfaction is considered very threatening.

So where is the conflict? Well, a teacher will stand to personally benefit, financially and otherwise, if students learn to share the political leanings of the majority of teachers and vote in a manner consistent with the private interests of teachers. Conversely, a teacher stands to lose money etc... if graduates do not share the political views of their teachers.

A great teacher will recognize this inherent conflict and work very hard to ensure that they do not manipulate or indoctrinate their students for their own personal benefit. But I suspect that most teachers are not even aware of the conflict. They simply believe that a political/governmental education is superior to any other education system. And I suspect this belief is passed on to unsuspecting students.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Meeting with Bill McReynolds

I met with Bill McReynolds today. My purpose was to seek information on the bumper (see previous posts) issue, so that I could make up my own mind as to whether McReynolds acted properly.

If I had my way, politicians would avoid doing business with the government. By my way of thinking, if a government official is engaged in private business transactions with government, one may well wonder whether the primary purpose of said transactions is to benefit the public or to benefit the politician. My purpose today was to detirmine whether his public obligations were compromised by his private pursuits.

I can find no evidence to suggest that the citizens of Racine County were shortchanged as a result of McReynold's business dealings with the county. I reach this conclusion based on the evidence which includes documents provided by Bill McReynolds as well as the conversation that I had with him.

McReynolds, as County Sheriff, became aware of a need for the push bumpers. The company that they had been purchasing from had recently gone out of business. McReynolds had a friend who he thought might be interested in producing the bumpers. McReynolds, his friend, and one other person (I didn't think that it is necessary to name them) formed a company that would produce the bumpers. McReynolds maintains that his involvement was limitted. He was 1/3 owner and he contributed $2000 for start up costs. McReynolds told me that he was involved in sales calls to the sheriffs departments of other counties, but that he did not make any effort to influence the decision at the Racine County Sheriffs Department. He acknowledges that the patrol captain who made the purchasing decision for the RCSD was aware of McReynolds involvement with the company. The company, Force Engineering, sold a small quantity of bumpers to RCSD and other Sheriffs departments. McReynolds stated that the bumpers were of good quality and that the prices were fair. The citizens of Racine County did not overpay for the bumpers.

Now I would be very interested to hear from anyone who is willing to challange Bill McReynolds' version of events. But at this point, there is nobody challenging his narrative. Instead, what we have are politically motivated people, and a local newspaper, also politically motivated, who would like very much for McReynolds to be guilty of wrongdoing. But unless and until they can provide actual evidence of wrongdoing, it is reasonable to conclude that they are merely engaged in election year maneuvering.