Friday, August 31, 2007

Indoctrination 101

McKinley Middle School students are learning the art of leftist political activism. They are out on the streets appealing to taxpayers to build a waterpark. Playing the victim and appealing to fadish causes is part of the playbook. "There's not enough stuff for kids to do" sniffed one student while also noting that "sustainabilty is using green space wisely and not polluting the land." What's more, a dip into a cool, clean pool will help us deal with the effects of global warming caused by greedy corporate Republican polluters. OK, I made that last one up. The students will forgo any efforts to convince the private sector to build a water park, and will instead be "contacing local officials and organizations to gather support for their vision." The effort is being led by public school teacher Larry Jozwik.

Stand By Your Man

RAMAC has offered their help in finding a new school superintendent, one just like Dr. Hicks. "We really want to make sure Dr. Hicks' educational initiatives continue" said RAMAC educational director Carol Barkow.

Yikes! I like Carol Barkow, but Hicks was here for six years and RUSD is no better than when he arrived. I think we should start with a clean slate and some new chalk.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Prediction Comes True

I was cleaning out my closet yesterday, discarding skeletons and such, when I found a copy of a commentary I had written for the JT three years ago or so. One paragraph in particular bears repeating. Here it is:

"And the big question in Racine is, will Superintendent Hicks' education plan work? And the answer is, no. This is not to say that Dr. Hicks doesn't have great ideas, he may. The problem is that Hicks ideas are being implemented within a system, a monopoloy, that always underperforms. Dr. Hicks will eventually be replaced by a new educational guru, who will bring new, equally unattainable promises. And when this happens, we should not blame Dr. Hicks, we should blame ourselves for perpetuating a doomed education delivery system."

Do we really want to make this mistake again, or do we rally around Robin Vos for school vouchers?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Your Turn

Twenty percent of US students can't identify the US on a world map. What are your thoughts on the subject?

Random Thoughts on Dr. Hicks Departure

1. I don't feel like celebrating.
2. Financial shenanigans aside, Hick's should have been removed primarily for the districts academic failings.
3. There is not a person alive today that can turn around RUSD. It will take a village. Oops, that won't work either.
4. Will local voucher opponents now stop citing the Milwaukee voucher school principal with the dozen Mercedes? RUSD is obviously no better, and is conceivably far worse, at managing public money.
5. Will Racine's elites apologize for their misguided support of Dr. Hicks? In case you don't know who you are, you are the Racine Journal Times, The Johnson Companies representatives, and RAMAC, to name a few.
6. Will we try something different this time, like, say, openly and honestly addressing the multitude of issues that preclude the possibility of meaningful internal reforms at RUSD? Among those are disruptive students who get shuffled around to different schools, teachers that can't teach and can't be fired, and excellent teachers who can't be given the raises that they deserve.
7. If the same nonsense that happens routinely at Unified were to happen at private schools, parents would pull their children out and send them to a better school. Those children would be better off. Unified students won't be so lucky. Is it for the children or isn't it?
8. Will the next superintendent please speak plain English? I am tired of the purposefully confusing and meaningless eduspeak that comes out of the central office.
9. If we can't make Unified better, can we at least make it smaller?
10. There is little point in bashing Dr. Hicks now. Instead we should bash ourselves and resolve not to make the same mistakes again. Do we even know what those mistakes were?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Car Bombers of Collectivism

The Journal Times editorial board today advocates for the Democrats Healthy Wisconsin plan. No surprise there. But in the process, they lament the partisanship and the "ideolgues that are out in force again."

And the Journal Times presented their usual moderate, cautious, and balanced (sarcasm) look at the opposition. You know, the folks, like me, who are just a wee bit concerned about the doubling of our taxes, not to mention some concerns about the likely effectiveness of the universal health care coverage that they are advocating. We are described derisively as the "mujahideen of free market capitalism."

Well I hate to stoop to the level of the JT... oh who am I kidding... it will be fun to stoop to the level of the JT just this once. They are the car bombers of collectivism, the storm troopers of socialism, the Molotov tossing Marxists, the Taliban of tyranny....

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Teaching Leftism, er Peace

MPS teacher and MJS community columnist Thomas Biel "feels good to be part of a peace movement." The brightest MPS students, those enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program, will be subject to a curriculum that attempts to "develop students who will help create a more peaceful world." Sounds great.

This is not "some kind of left wing political agenda" Biel assures us. "The concept is not anti-military or so niave to think that we can somehow make war disappear." Great!

Biel continues in a fashion that would make Micheal Moore blush. "It is sad to think now of the many American soldiers... who are told they are liberators when they are pawns of the profitable business of war." And "It is sad to think of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died while our government insists they are being liberated." And "But under the Bush administration and due to the consequences of its war in Iraq, we have reached the point where the integrity of freedom and democracy has been put into jeapordy and risks becoming meaningless." And "Will we teach peace or continue to foster allegiance to an ideology that divides the world into the crusaders for freedom vs. the evildoers as justification for the continuation of military domination?"

OK then, we know where Mr. Biel stands. But don't worry. Certainly the students will be offered additional perspectives on peacekeeping. No doubt Mr. Biel understands that endless rounds of negotiating and appeasing Hitler, for example, resulted in the needless death of millions. And I am sure he appreciates the US Military for bringing that war to a successful conclusion. Certainly the students will be taught to identify evil, despite their immersion in a multicultural education, in order the muster the conviction to confront the bad guys of the world. I am sure that the concept of peace through strength will be thoroughly explored. The students are in good hands, right Mr. Biel?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Environmental Education?

I just finished reading one of my son's summer reading books, Phoenix Rising by Karen Hesse.

There is an accident at a nuclear power plant in a northeastern town. A boy, age 15, has been exposed to high levels of radiation and is quite sick. His father, the plant manager, died shortly after the accident. The boy and his mother, called evacuees, are offered a place to stay at a farm fairly near to the accident scene. The boy, at his death bed, is comforted by the youngish girl at the farmhouse. She reads to him mostly and he gradually recovers from the radiation poisoning. The girl is instrumental in his recovery and the two of them form a close bond. The boys recovery is fleeting, however. He gets sick again and dies shortly thereafter. But before he does, he tells the story of the fights that he had with his dad. "I told my father, if anything ever went wrong, if there ever was an accident, it would be his fault. For accepting nuclear money, for accepting nuclear risk. It would be his fault." And the girl had the following conversation with her grandma after the boys death: "You really believe that something will be done. (about nuclear disasters presumably)" said the girl. "Ayuh," Gran said. "But maybe you have to be the one to do it."

This was a nice, moving story. But my question is this: Is my son being groomed to be an environmental activists, or is dad hypersensitive about imaginary political agendas?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Eugene Kane Gets It!

It is not often that I am in substantial agreement with Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane, but I am today. Kane's column today addressed the issue of the disproportionate numbers of blacks in our prisons. I was prepared for the usual pronouncements of racism, profiling, poverty, joblessness etc... as the primary cause, and he offered a bit of that, but mostly he touched on some unfortunate and often overlooked truths.

For example, he noted his visit to the Racine Youthful Offender Correctional Facility, where one of the inmates talked about a younger brother "who actually considered it a badge of honor to have an older sibling in prison."

Kane also noted that "a little time behind bars serves as a strong dose of truth serum for inmates", many of whom declined to offer excuses, knowing full well why they find themselves in jail. In other words, they are in jail because they are guilty of committing criminal acts, not because of profiling, poverty, racism, etc...

There is a serious problem when a sizeable subculture glorifies criminality while looking up to prisoners. It should be no surprise that criminal behavior and prison terms would flow from such a warped world view.

Thankfully, a prominent black columnist in Eugene Kane seems to understand this problem. And that is the critical first step in addressing the problem.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ethical Dilemma

My business is in need of two new employees, and I placed a notice to that effect inside our store. As it happens, two of the best applicants so far work at a nearby small business. I know and like the owners of said nearby business and I am certain that losing two employees would present a hardship for them. On the other hand, it would be unfair to deny two individuals an opportunity to change jobs, and, presumably, improve their lives, for the benefit of their employer. What to do?

Dear Diane

What would I do with the extra money not taken by government if our tax burden were lower?

That question was posed to me by blogger Diane in a recent post on that blog. Diane had implied that I was after power, control or perhaps a mansion devoid of loving occupants. To the best of my knowledge I have never met Diane, but she sure seems to have some pretty strong opinions about who I am. Anyway, here goes Diane.

My first inclination is to tell you that what I would do with my money is none of your business. But I am a good sport, so I will tell you a bit about myself. I ride a bike that I bought twenty years ago from a friend. I play tennis with second hand rackets. I have no toys beyond those. I could afford the toys if I wanted them, I just have little interest in stuff. If I had more money, my life would change very little I suspect. I might by the $15 bottle of wine instead of the $8 bottle. I would probably try to change careers and start a small local newspaper. I would not aspire to control anyone or gain power over others, as I am more interested in empowering others.

But alas Diane, my interest in a lower tax burden is not just about me, it is about everyone. People typically do one of two things with the money that is available after taxes. They spend it or save it. And unless they are stuffing it in shoeboxes, that money is being circulated into the economy, where it creates jobs, results in improved products and services etc... and more wealth and well being than if it were handed over to the government. The reason is that, on average, individuals will make better choices with their own hard earned money than strangers will with other people's money. This is not intended as a screed against government but rather as an acknowledgement of human nature. People will typically take better care of what is theirs, in this case money, than they will take of someone else's money. This natural human tendency is summed up beautifully in a quote I have read somewhere; " nobody has ever washed a rental car."

Diane, I suspect it might be difficult to shake your stereotypical and false impression of me and other fiscal conservatives. It is far easier to demonize others than it is to try to understand them. In my view, it is neither good for you or the larger society to behave in this manner.

Monday, August 13, 2007

On Appeasing Boycotters

From time to time I get threatened with the dreaded B word. B stands for boycott. And so it is again. First time blogger "Lisa" has declared that she will no longer patronize my business. I am highly suspicious of this "Lisa" and would not be the least bit surprised to discover that "she" is someone not enamored with my political persuasion, and is using the boycott threat in an effort to muzzle me. It won't work.

At any rate, "Lisa" apparently believes that I am not sufficiently concerned about poverty. I can understand "her" conclusion to a point, as I have written that I do not think about the plight of the workers who produce the products that I buy. I went on to explain that to do so would be impossible. How many workers from how many countries, for example, do you think contribute to the production and distribution my box of Roundy's Pancake and Waffle Mix? Where do they get Aluminum Sulfate from? Are the Aluminum Sulfite workers properly compensated? Are the folks who produce Thiamine Mononitrate earning a living wage? Do Niacin producers have a decent health care plan?

Thankfully I am not burdened by these questions every time I purchase something. The reason is not that I don't care, but that I believe, after much consideration, that people are generally better off if they are able to sell their legitimate products and services freely than they would be if their production and distribution were overseen by "Lisa" or other elites that think they are smarter or more compassionate than you. Thus I am reasonably assured that Niacin producers, though they may not have an adequate health care plan, are marginally better off if I buy their product than if I don't. Thus purchases off all types are not guilt inducing experiences for me.

But alas, this is not the main point of this blog. I wonder what "Lisa" expects of me. Does "she" wish that I would substitute my judgement and thoughts for hers in order to make money? Must my thoughts and beliefs be calculated purely for profit maximization? What would I do if two customers held fervently opposite viewpoints on an important issue? Do I side with the one who spends more money at my business? What would I become if my every thought and action were calculated to please the maximum number of customers?

The very thought of whoring my mind and soul to the highest bidder just sickens me. It is not going to happen "Lisa".

Friday, August 10, 2007

Killer Taxes

I frequently visit, a fringe left web site run by a Kay from Burlington. Recently she was lamenting the loss of life caused by Republican attitudes towards taxes that leave people to die due to lack of medical care. So I posed the question as to whether high taxes might also be fatal to some. She seemed never to have contemplated the question.

To her credit, she asked me to elaborate, which I did, in the following manner. High levels of taxation leave us with less money in our pockets, all other things being equal. As such, we may well end up purchasing used tires instead of new, we might forgo an alarm system in our home, we might drive instead of fly. Each of these decisions that we might make because of higher taxes will leave us marginally less safe. Multiply these increased risks by millions of people and certainly some will die as a result of higher taxes. Also, I explained, high taxes decrease the incentive to take financial risks. Why risk millions to develop a life saving medicine if the government will take most of your profits. There is a reason why life saving innovations come from mostly free countries like ours and not Cuba and North Korea. Freedom, including economic freedom, are needed in order to have the mind boggling array of products and services that most of us take for granted. And high taxes rob us of our freedoms as well as the great things that free people can produce. Yes, high taxes are deadly.

PC Photography

Racine County Supervisor Diane Lange complained yesterday, in a commentary concerning rental of excess jail space, about a photo in the JT of several black inmates playing cards. In her own words:

"The accompanying photo in the same issue with the smiling, card playing inmates contributes further to the racial bias and stereotyping that so frequently already fills up local blog sites. It may encourage the community to see crime as a code word for race in our political discussion sphere. This is not helpful for thoughtful discourse."

Now I am confused. I recently went to Governor Doyle's task force concerning the problem of overrepresentation of minorities in our prison system. Diane Lange was in attendance. So we want to bring attention to the problem, just not with photographs? Should the photographer have rounded up a few whites and Hispanics for the photo, or just add them later?

The truth is that there are too many black people in our prisons. To pretend otherwise would be dishonest and would not be "helpful for thoughtful discourse."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Thought of the Day

Can one prefer non-judgementalism without making a judgement?

JT Health Care Newsentary

Yes, I have coined a new term, the newsentary. It is commentary inserted into news articles. The JT does it all the time. Take David Steinkrauses story today entitled "The price of health." Interestingly, the story did not actually mention the price of the proposed universal health coverage for all Wisconsinites. The initial cost is estimated to be $15 billion per year, an amount that would more than double our state budget.

But this health care plan will generate savings, according to Steinkraus. Apparently, numerous counties are projecting savings because health care expenses for county employees and such would be shifted to business owners and workers through a huge payroll tax hike. "And because the Senate bill requires 50% of the savings be returned to taxpayers, it looks as though everyone would gain." writes Steinkraus.

Hmmm. State taxes will more than double. Counties would be relieved of health care costs but would only be required to return half of the savings. Everyone gains. Wow. And that was in a news story, not a commentary.

Costs of Non Incarceration

Racine County Board Supervisor Diane Lange has a commentary in today's JT. Her main point was to suggest that renting out our excess jail space should not be done without careful consideration. Fine. But along the way she throws in some gems like the following paragraph.

"Our community needs to better understand the massive and sometimes invisible ways that incarceration in a jail or a prison affects the families, children, parents, and wider community. Inmates and their families are finacially, emotionally and socially punished."

Liberals always seem to show great concern for the costs associated with incarceration. No doubt she is correct that imprisonment has harmful effects on families etc... but does she ever bother to consider the cost of NOT imprisoning criminals? Should a civilized society ignore the substantial cost imposed by criminals? Should we let bad check writers, burglars, drunk drivers, murderers, thieves etc... do their thing without considering the costs imposed upon their victims?

Suppose we did things Lange's way and only considered the costs of incarceration. Naturally we would want to lessen those costs by not imprisoning criminals. How would criminals respond to this kind of community decision? Would they commit fewer crimes knowing that they would likely avoid incarceration? Hardly. They would simply commit more crimes knowing the punishment would be minimal.

The number of crimes would go up and the cost of the increasing number of crimes would be paid by increasing numbers of innocent victims. I would rather our criminals spend some time in jail in the hopes that they may consider an alternative to criminal activity.

Bottoms Up

I saw a clip of Barrack Obama yesterday touting the bottom up political movement that will result in his presidency. Now I don't mean to pick on Obama. I am sure that all the candidates are saying similar things, after all, they need us (the bottom) to get elected. But Obama seemed generally favorable towards bottom up solutions rather than top down ones. And I would agree with him on that score.

However, the irony is that this bottom up political movement would invariably result in more top down policies. If Obama is elected (or any other Democrat), would we see a preference towards bottom up solutions in health care, or would we see a push for top down universal health care coverage? Would we see a move towards a bottom up solution to our education woes, such as school vouchers, or would we see more federal intrusions like the No Child Left Behind legislation? Would we see a bottom up economy, where individuals keep more of their own money to solve their own problems, or would we see more taxes and thus a more top down economy?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Governor's PC Task Force

I see that Governor Doyle has created another task force, this time to see what can be done about global warming. I had recently attended a public hearing on the task force created to address the problem of overrepresentation among some minorities in our prison system. I concluded at the time that this was a political dog and pony show designed to create the impression that Democrats are on the side of minorities, rather than a serious effort to examine the factors (namely criminal behavior) leading to incarceration.

Anyway, his latest task force has even dropped the pretense of objectivity. "What it won't do is debate the science of whether global warming is real" reports David Steinkraus of the Journal Times. Well there you have it. We will have a task force where citizens are free to discuss their opinions and policy preferences, so long as they are in agreement with the governor.

Can you imagine the uproar if a Republican governor created a task force on studying the importance of faith, so long as the existence of God is not questioned?

Thought of the Day

The surest way to avoid being a hypocrite is to eliminate any standards for yourself.