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.