Thursday, August 31, 2006

Is John Lehman a Wife Beater?

State Rep. John Lehman, a candidate for the 21st District State Senate seat, denies recent allegations that he beats his wife. "I am happily married" Lehman announced at a packed news conference yesterday. "At no time in my 14 years of marriage have I ever acted in an aggressive manner towards my wife."

Yet extensive research from marriage experts indicates that most wife beaters deny the allegations. "Nobody ever admits to wife beating" chuckled family lawyer Bill Ulater. "Denial and wife beating go hand in hand. John Lehman's denials do not vindicate him, not in the least" Ulater continued.

A search of county arrest warrants and convictions indicate that John Lehman has not been arrested or convicted of wife beating.

"Most incidents of domestic violence are not reported to the police" according to UW Parkside Family Studies Professor Axtwo Grind. "It would not be the least bit unusual for Mrs. Lehman to cower in silence, fearing even more violence if she were to report his crimes. I mean his alleged crimes. At this point we can't be certain that John Lehman has beaten his wife. But we do know that wife beating is America's hidden crisis."

The Racine County District Attorney has indicated a willingness to prosecute any and all wife beaters.

The preceeding faux news story is not meant to damage John Lehman's political ambitions. It is meant to highlight the Journal Times political ambitions. On Wednesday, August 30th, the Journal Times ran a story entitled "Did Mac's bumpers break the law?" Yet the story offers no evidence, none whatsoever, that Bill McReynolds has broken the law. Of course it is true that Bill McReynolds might have broken the law, just as it is true that John Lehman might be a wife beater. But without any evidence to support the theory that McReynolds has broken the law, it is irresponsible, at best, to use the headline suggesting possible lawbreaking. At worst, the use of irresponsible and suggestive headlines is a not-so-subtle attempt by the Journal Times to harm Bill McReynolds while helping his opponent John Lehman. This kind of activity should be limitted to the opinion section of the newspaper.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Dear Bill McReynolds;

I have been reading the paper lately regarding the controversy over your involvement with the sale of bumpers to the Sheriffs office. However, there have been very few facts accompanying the reporting. As a general rule, I would prefer that my elected officials refrain from doing business with the government entity that they preside over. That said, I believe that it is also certainly possible that your business involvement with the Sheriffs office may have been beneficial to the office as well as taxpayers. At this point, I lack the information needed to fairly judge this election year controversy. Would you please answer the following questions?

1) Explain the reasons why Force Engineering was formed.
2) What did Force Engineering produce, or did it buy and resell?
3) What was your role with Force Engineering?
4) There appears to be some confusion as to whether your involvement with Force Engineering was properly disclosed to all involved with the purchasing decisions. Can you clarify this issue?
5) Explain the rules pertaining to purchasing, particularly where a conflict of interest could arise.
6) Did the Sheriffs Department, to the best of your knowledge, follow the rules?
7) Rules aside, can you understand that many people, hopefully most people, are uncomfortable with business dealings between elected officials and government entities?
8) You may be our next state senator. How will this episode affect your decisions in the future, if at all?
9) Please include any additional information that you feel is necessary to fully resolve this issue.

Thank you Mr. McReynolds. I will include this letter, and your response, on my blog,


Denis Navratil

Sunday, August 27, 2006

business decency

My remote garage door opener wasn't working, so I called Advanced Garage Door Service, as their number was posted inside my garage. I left a message explaining my problem. Later I received a call from Troy from AGDS. After Troy gathered the info that he needed, he offered to give me a garage door opener that he thought might work. Perhaps he had no use for the obsolete opener that he gave me, as they are over 25 years old and they are no longer made. Perhaps so, but Troy could have just as easily recommended a service call, and I would certainly have accepted his recommendation. So Troy bypassed an opportunity to make money, instead offering something free to a complete stranger. Is Troy a decent idiot?

No. While it certainly seems as if Troy is a nice guy, I suspect that he is also a smart businessman. A smart business person understands that if they meet the needs of their customers, they will earn a good reputation, and in the long run, they will be rewarded with customer loyalty. Yes, there can be short term losses, and some people may take advantage of your decency, but in the long run, treating your customers well is the key to success in business.

I offer this story for two reasons. First, I wanted to reward Troy. If you need your garage door serviced, it sure seems as though Troy will treat you fairly. But more importantly, this minor, nearly insignificant interaction between Troy and myself can help dispel an all too common misperception about business and what it takes to succeed in business. Many people seemingly believe that success in business is only possible if you sacrifice your decency. I don't believe that that is true. Certainly some skilled shysters can become rich. But a far better strategy is to develop a level of trust with your customers. Treat them well and they will reward you. A business person need not make a choice between decency and success. Thanks again Troy!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Understanding Edu-speak

I went to the school board meeting tonight to listen to the annual report. I arrived a bit late, so I might have missed some substance, but I doubt it. As I listened to the various administrators speak, I realized that they all were well versed in a language that I will call edu-speak. I am now prepared to take over for Dr. Hicks, when his lack of success becomes apparent to the community. The following is my proposal to enable Racine Unified to "move forward."

Objective data suggests that Dr. Hicks "New Chalkboard Plan" has not systematically addressed the needs of the community. We need, instead, my CPR Plan, which stands for Child Performance Reviews. CPR is needed to improve service delivery to the stakeholders as we move forward. With CPR, we will implement objective, measurable, child focused learning objectives. Systematic internal progress monitoring will drive the decisions needed to facilitate improved acedemic achievement, increased accountability, and improved student engagement. CPR baseline data, coupled with structured metrics and transparent benchmarks will enable internal stakeholders to drive improvements. Mastery of systems implementation among executive management and ongoing feedback from primary service providers will result in improved resource allocation, instructional efficiences as well as measureable external customer satisfaction improvements. I mean no disrespect to our former CEO, but I think it is time for CPR.

Now if my education proposal is not clear to you, be assured that as I move forward, my communication effectiveness with community stakeholders will be objectively measured through the focused use of industry standard interface evaluation techniques. The data suggests that external stakeholders will appreciate the implementation of a transparent, coherent, easily mastered communication delivery approach. So I may as well start now.

Most education experts are full of shit.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Get Whitey Tax

The Milwaukee Journal reported that "The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse would charge students $1,320 over three years on top of annual tuition increases to expand and diversify its student body under a pilot program approved Thursday by the UW System Board of Regents."

"A major focus of the program is bringing in more low-income and minority students, of which UW-La Crosse has few. The university would hire new staff to help recruit and retain 500 such students. It would use $3.8 million to fund scholarships and other forms of financial aid."

"We are targeting two particular groups," Lostetter (UW-La Crosse vice chancellor for administration and finance) said. "Students from the bottom two income quintiles and students of color."

If this new fee/student tax is approved by Governor Doyle and the Legislature, I hope it will be challenged in court. The basic problem, as I see it, is that the program will discriminate against white students, not once, but twice. First, by favoring "students of color" over students of non-color or wrong color, the university is using irrelevant and discriminatory criteria to select students, rather than having a merit based system. Then, to add insult to injury, they will require all students, including those with pale skin, to pay towards a program that discriminates on the basis of skin color. Students of all colors who oppose racial discrimination should protest this tax. It is offensive enough that racism against white students is celebrated by our morally bankrupt Board of Regents, but now they have the gall to require students to pay more for an expanded program of racism. At the very least, they should have a conscience clause which would allow students to avoid paying into a reprehensible, discriminatory program. Or is it OK to discriminate against white people?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Linkages or Referendum Prep?

What is a linkage? I didn't know either, but linkages are coming to the Racine area between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. I first heard about linkages at yesterdays RUSD school board meeting at the DeKoven Center. When I asked what they were, Russ carlsen handed me 12 pages of bold face print entitled "Linkage Strategy Outline." So far as I can tell, linkages are an effort by the school board to link with various groups within our community. The main topic of conversation is "Creating the future: RUSD in 2015." The conversations will take place with focus groups comprised of individuals from defined groups, such as blacks, business leaders, teachers, etc... and with unspecified key communicators, and at community forums. The following are the questions for discussion:

1. The year is 2015. During the past 9 years, RUSD has transformed itself, and has been recognized by the US Department of Education as one of the 10 most exemplary public school districts in the US. New neighbors have asked you to describe RUSD to help them decide whether to enroll their children here. How would you describe the district in terms of:
A. Students' acedemic preperation
B. Its operational efficiencies
C. The state of the district's facilities

2. In order to fully prepare our students to live and perform well in the world they will inherit in 2015, what will they need beyond academic preperation?

3. What would be required to make this vision of the future reality?

4. What are the barriers we must overcome in order to succeed?

It is fairly obvious how this will play out. The carefully chosen attendees, all firm believers in public education, will present their wish list. The graduates will have excellent test scores in all the important subjects. The district will operate smoothly and efficiently. The facilities will be top notch. In addition to solid reading and math skills, students will need political grooming to become citizens of the world. Obviously, we will need first rate teachers paid top dollar. We will need money, lots of money, for great teachers and first rate facilities. And in order to get this money, we will have to elect Democrats, lots of Democrats. As such, the barriers to this vision of success are those people who do not believe in our vision. Those people include many Republicans, advocates of school vouchers, and assorted greedy people who don't want to be taxed out of their homes.

Monday, August 14, 2006

For The Children?

I had a few spare hours today, so I attended a Racine School Board meeting. This meeting was held in a very small room at the Dekoven Center, at 1 pm today. The participants were Superintendent Hicks and the school board, minus Brian Dey. The meeting was led by Linda Dawson and Randy Quinn from The Aspen Group, a consultant firm hired to help implement school board policies.

There was a very interesting discussion about the wording used to set goals regarding student achievement. Presently, the goals are for children to achieve at or above grade level. This goal was found to be insufficient, as it does not adequately address the issues facing children for whom grade level achievement is impossible or for the brightest children who should be performing well beyond grade level. Instead, they agreed on the following goal:

Students will achieve acedemic results commensurate with yearly personalized learning goals.

The initial change in wording that was rejected included the phrase "individual learning goals." It was thought that this might sound too much like the IEP (individual education plan) used for special education children. Thus Armin Clobes suggested "call it a new name, not an IEP" and consultant Linda Dawson suggested exchanging the word "individual" with "personalized." Yet there was no discussion or suggestion that "personalized learning goals" differed from an IEP. Only the words are different.

School Board member Don Nielsen indicated that the Department of Public Instruction "wants to move in this direction," meaning a direction wherin students are measured according to their individual results relative to their "personalized learning goals", rather than measuring the aggregate scores of children in their school or district. There was a bit of emphasis on the unfairness of measuring schoolwide test results because of the constant turnover of students, coupled with the high truancy rates. Russ Carlsen suggested pulling out the test results of the chronically truant students.

So what does all this technical education jargon mean? I can't be sure, but I smell a rat. If the school district wishes to shift focus from their abysmal aggregate test results to an undefined method of measuring the results of 21,000 individuals, this could be a great public relations move by RUSD. I could easily envision a scenario where poor results are masked by glowing "improvement", as 95% of students exceeded their "personalized learning goals."

The dreaded No Child Left Behind Act was mentioned once, and I suspect that this emphasis on individual results might be intended to circumvent the intent of that law, which allows students to change schools if their school is achieving poor test results. You can avoid that problem by redefining success. Johnny can't read, but not to worry. He has met all of his "personalized learning goals."

In a nutshell, here is what I suspect is happening. RUSD is worried about the poor test results of their students, as they should be. Rather than address this problem directly, and attempt to improve the education and subsequent test scores, they are instead seeking to redefine success, which will be measured by a meaningless new standard. And yes, it is for the children.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Buddhist Baby Killers

I have no doubt that Zen Buddhist teacher Tony Somlia is sincere in his yearning for peace. Somlia wrote an article in the Journal Times today entitled "For true peace to appear, worry about all babies."

Somlia writes, "No one owns the truth. To proclaim there is only one path to peace is arrogant and divisive." And, "People continue to make unfortunate choices under the erroneous impression that they are right. The skills needed to enact peace are buried under the arrogance of being strong-headed. We fail to listen to each other because of the attachment of anger in our heads. Sharing resources scares us to death because we selfishly cling to a quality of life that is an illusion. Never wondering about our culpability in the creation of massive killing machines, we sleep well at night foolishly believing that our God supports this insanity. As a result, many babies die."

Now, at the risk of being called an arrogant, angry, strong-headed, selfish, foolish, baby killer, I wonder how Somlia would address the problem with Islamic extremists who would like to slit the throats of non-Muslims.

Somlia does not address the Islamic extremist problem, but he does offer one path to peace. "We do believe that there is suffering in this world, that there is cause to this suffering. Our contemplative practice looks deeply to find the medicine for the human sickness that creates war and kills indiscriminately. Our goal is to realize the role we play in this madness and then act on the peace found naturally in our hearts and minds. Our Zen Center's current effort is the creation of a peace garden, which has been five years in the making, on the grounds of the DeKoven Center."

So there it is. Let us all grow peace gardens. This will surely stop the terrorists in their tracks.

Somlia is a dangerous man. No, you don't have to cross the street to avoid him. I am sure he is quite pleasant. But his philosophy is dangerous. He thinks that there is no evil that can't be overcome by peaceful means like planting gardens. Ignoring evil, or engaging in fanciful, child-like notions that planting gardens can melt the hearts of terrorists, are dangerous ideas because they suppose the real evils that we face will go away. They will not. Only we will be less prepared to fight the evil that needs fighting. If Somlia's philosophy prevails, we will all forcibly become Muslims, or we will have our throats slashed. Needless to say, many more babies will die.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Free Wilbur

I don't know Wilber Jones, but I am rooting for him. Wilber Jones owns a bar on High Street in Racine and he is in danger of losing his liquor license. It is unclear what, if any, laws have been broken by Wilbur Jones. But that doesn't seem to matter. Wilbur may lose his license, and his livlihood, because of the behavior of his patrons.

Is this fair? Not in my book. I own a retail store. Should my store be closed by the city if criminals enter my store and steal my merchandise? Should my store be closed by the city if my customers commit a crime after leaving my store? No and no, of course. But if you own a liquor license, you may well lose your license because of crimes committed by other people, even if you have broken no laws.

Even more problematic in the grand scheme of things is our increasing tendency to hold the wrong people accountable for crimes. It is the perpetrator of crimes that should be punished, and nobody else.