Wednesday, October 31, 2007

FreeRacine Gathering?

It was suggested to me that we have a second FreeRacine gathering. Some of you may remember the first gathering about this time last year. A good time was had by all. Who would have thought that plotting a capitalist revolution could be so much fun? And anon was a big hit with the paper bag over his head, or was it her head. Anyway, please weigh in. Should we do this again?

Conflict and the Left

This was going to be a comment on my previous post but I think it merits seperate consideration. I had a new insight that I would like to share with readers. As I have observered the increasingly hostile tone of some of the participants on the left, I often wondered how this style of debate could be helpful to their cause. Certainly discriminating readers would be less inclined to agree with a hostile and condescending responder than with a fair and thoughtful one. So what purpose does the hostility serve other than to create needless divisions?

EXACTLY! This is exactly the reason to behave in this manner. You see, the left needs conflict, real or imagined, to further their agenda. Theirs (at least the far left) is an us against them philosophy that thrives on conflict versus the cooperation that is valued by most people. So you see the left playing up conflict between whites and blacks, between rich and poor, gay and straight, worker and management, female and male etc... The left needs people to buy into these trumped up conflicts. They need to foment conflict where none exists. They need to villify their opponents. Conflict and vitriol are necessary to create the divisions that they need in order to advance their agenda. So the hatred from the far left makes perfect sense after all.

Vitriol and the Left

I would like to extend my apologies to readers who have been subjected to the recent barrage of irresponsible rhetoric from some of my ideological opponents. Though I encourage participation from those who disagree with me, I did not intend for this blog to deteriorate into a mudslinging contest. That said, I believe it is of some value to observe the behavior and dissect the arguments of people who would have you believe that they are kind, caring, tolerant and smarter than you.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Part of the Solution

Racine Unified interim superintendent Jack Parker and interim CFO David Hazen collaborated on a commentary in today's JT entitled "Racine Unified faces immense challenges." In it they ask for "supporters and critics to come together and help" and to be "part of the solution." How to help they didn't say.

I think I can best help by offering a dissenting opinion.

Hazen and Parker contend that the success of Unified is essential to our community. "Whether you live in the city, the district, or the county, the success of RUSD and your future are tied together." And "Indeed, the future prosperity of the community, the county, and the region rests to an important degree on the success of RUSD." And "For the community to thrive, RUSD's success has to be a priority for everyone." Even County Executive Bill McReynolds apparently stated, "explicitly" that "student success in RUSD is essential to the long term social and economic viability of the county."

Few would argue the importance of a quality education, and I am not among them. Education ranks right up there with food in importance to our society. But I don't know anyone who would suggest that McDonalds is essential for the viability of our county, or that success of Piggly Wiggly and your future are tied together, or that the future prosperity the community rests on the success of Pick'N Save. Food is essential. McDonalds, Piggly Wiggly, and Pick'N Save are not.

Likewise, education is essential while RUSD is not. It doesn't matter what entity educates the children in our community, be it parents in a home school, RUSD, charter schools, or private schools. What matters is that the entity that attempts to educate our children succeeds in doing so. If that can be RUSD, fine. If RUSD is not up to the task, perhaps we need to look to other educational establishments.

This is the mistake made by Dave Hazen, Jack Parker and countless others in our community. They assume that RUSD must be the critical educational institutional around. Presently, it is, to the detriment of our community, because so many of our children are being undereducated there. Rather than flailing endlessly to fix a broken school system, perhaps it is time to look outside that system. We should do this for the children.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

National Taxpayers Day

I was out last night and happened upon Micah Waters (manager/partner/owner? I am not sure) of Porters. He had a good idea. How about a new national holiday called Taxpayers Day?

Micah suggested that on taxpayers day, everyone has the day off except government employees.

We started to run with the idea. Taxpayers don't have to pay taxes that day. Additionally, government workers have one day where they don't get paid and they don't have benefits, as the taxpayer is taking the day off from providing these benefits. Wouldn't there be some value in having government employees shopping around for a one day health insurance policy?

Not only would this be a joyous day for taxpayers, it would serve as a much needed reminder to government employees just who it is that is paying their salaries and providing their benefits.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Did You Know?

The US economy has added jobs for 47 (or was it 49) consecutive months, a record for our country. Remember all that talk about a jobless recovery a few years back?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Confess

The demise of KRM has caused the Journal Times editorialists to wonder what has become of our "sense of common good."

"This is where the glib may blame television or video games for promoting isolation and self-absorbtion, or blame our desire to help private companies make money by charging low income people for the help they need, or blame our desire to keep more money by ignoring the needs of the other people. The cause is likely to be a combination of those varying with each person."

So if you don't share the vision of the Journal Times editorial board, you are either self-absorbed, greedy, or capitalist, or a combination thereof.

I am guilty. I believe that the owners of companies ought to be able to charge money for the products and services that they offer, which makes me a capitalist. And I believe that collective government action has typically been more harmful than helpful to people in "need", which makes me greedy. And I watch TV. Shame on me!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On Equality

If we take money from the rich to achieve equality, shouldn't we depress the happy and sicken the healthy for the same reason?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Question For You

Is it to the economic advantage of the "haves" to repress the "have nots?" Please include reasons for your answer.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

On Labeling Liberals

Pete Karas does not like labels. Like many of that segment of the population that show a consistent preference for more government intervention in our lives, in the form of taxes and regulations, and who minimize the importance of family, individual responsibility, and free markets to address our social problems, they don't want to be labelled. They don't want to be called liberals.

But labels are important shortcuts that make dialogue possible. Do we ask for a disc shaped slab of ground and cooked cow flesh wedged between two pieces of bread when we go to McDonalds (itself a label), or is it easier to ask for a hamburger?

Even the name Pete Karas is a label. Without his name, or label, we might have to describe him as "that politically active Racine alderman most noted for his opposition to guns and his support for a publicly owned power company."

Labels are not a bad thing. We need them. But labels should be accurate, and in this regard, Pete may well have a point. The term "liberal" has different meanings for different folks, because of the modern liberals, I would argue.

"Liberal", as it pertains to political philosophy, is defined as "favorable to individual liberty, social reform and the removal of economic restraints." Most folks that are commonly known as liberals today are more interested in imposing economic restraints (higher taxes, more regulations) than in removing them, so perhaps "liberal" is not the best label for Pete and for those who believe as he does.

Some known as liberals prefer the term "progressive." This term is defined as "favoring political and social progress and reform." But this term is far too broad as virtually anyone with even the slightest interest in politics would favor progress.

So how do we label them accurately? Here, Pete can be most helpful. Let us look at his policy preference, as this may help us to accurately label him.

Pete, as I have already mentioned, is most noted for his opposition to guns, or at least the right to carry them while concealed, and for his support for a publicly owned power company. I strongly suspect that Pete supports the public ownership of schools and education, and I suspect that he favors universal health care. I trust Pete will correct me if I have mistakenly characterized his positions.

Pete's positions demonstrate a consistent preference for the collective. Government should control the production and distribution of education, health care and power. Conversely, individuals should have less or no control in these matters, except that which they can garner through the political process. Even his position on gun control indicates the preference for the collective. Individuals would be prevented from defending themselves against predators with guns. That job should fall to the government.

Socialism is defined as "a political and economic theory advocating collective ownership of the means of production and control of distribution. It is based on the belief that all, while contributing to the good of the community, are equally entitled to the care and protection which the community can provide."

Given Pete's well known politcal positions, it would be more accurate to label him as a socialist, a statist, or a collectivist than it would be to describe him as a liberal or a progressive.

I therefore label Pete Karas a socialist, not in an effort to disparage or humiliate him, but rather to accurately describe his political philosophy. Should Pete or anyone else find this label offensive, I have but one question. Is it accurate?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Teachers Union Boss Has Sordid Past

Oh ya, I too can play gotcha politics. I have some incriminating information about the recently elected president of the Racine Education Association, one Pete Knotek. It seems that Knotek has associated with union opponents. It is true and it gets worse. Knotek once gather signatures at his school for an individual now known around town as a skeptic regarding the value of our local unions. I doubt that Knotek has been forthcoming about this association and I further doubt that he would have been elected had this association been well known.

I will now reveal the source of this scandalous news. The source is me. I came to know Pete a few years back. My son played with his boys on occasion. He later gathered some signitures for me when I ran for county executive.

Pete is a smart guy and I respect his integrity, even though I would likely disagree with his politics regularly. I suspect that my shift in political thinking has made our interactions a bit strained and uncomfortable, unfortunately. I wish Pete well in his new venture. Not too well, of course.

Smoking Ban Myth Smoked Out

I saw a handwritten sign on the door of a bar the other day as I was driving by. It read: We Are Not A Smoke Free Bar.

Obviously, the bar owner would like to dispell the notion that his/her bar is smoke free. But at the same time, he/she dispells the notion, frequently suggested by the anti-smoking zealots, that a smoking ban would be good for bars.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Saving Racine

The Racine County Workforce Development Board has announced plans to tackle some of Racine's most vexing problems, according to an article today in the Racine Journal Times. The Board, led by Twin Disc CEO Michael Batten, has identified the following as top challenges:

1) High unemployment in the inner city
2) Low educational attainment, especially in the inner city.
3) Long term decline in manufacturing jobs.
4) Historical difficulty in attracting businesses and residents to the Racine area.
5) Inability to fill the demand for existing jobs.

The board has hired two Washington D.C. area companies to complete a strategic plan. Your tax dollars will foot the bill for half of the $100,000 plan. Local companies will fund the rest.

I think the board has correctly identified the problems, though I would add high rates of crime to the list. But identifying Racine's problems has always been easy. Our unemployment rate has been among the states highest for some time. Our crime rates in certain areas are very high and our public school education problems are and have been patently obvious to anyone paying attention. So identifying the problem is very easy to do. The solutions on the other hand are the hard part.

So I will chime in with a few suggestions and questions for the D.C. companies.

1) Why would people stay in Racine if they are chronically unemployed?
Hint #1. Racine is losing population so some people are clearly leaving. Yet some are staying despite their joblessness. Their is little reason to stay in an area when you don't have a job unless the area supports the jobless or unless the area is a haven for black market economic activity.

2) Regarding education, if educational achievement is lacking at the public schools, would it make sense to expand the educational options for inner city students?
Hint #2. Rarely if ever are our local private schools cited as the problem, and for good reason.

3) Are some of the problems facing Racine internal or cultural problems?
Hint #3. Yes. We are now seeing the inevitable result of decades of mistaken policies, some local, some statewide, some national. Racine and Wisconsin became a draw some decades ago because of our lavish welfare benefits. These benefits marginalized men while offering financial incentives for out-of-wedlock procreation. Inevitably, we now have a multigenerational dependence on government and an entitlement mentality coupled with, as always, a decline in personal responsibilty and initiative. Crime, low educational attainment, and joblessness are the inevitable result.

4) What can be done?
Hint #4. If you actually want to improve Racine, then fearlessly address the problems. If you just want to collect the $100,000 in the easiest manner possible without ruffling feathers, well, just offer the usual "more government programs will save the day" policy suggestions.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

New blogger in town

Dustin Block, formerly of the Racine Journal Times, has started his own web site/blog called Good luck Dustin. Oh by the way, I am assuming that Dustin is no longer with the JT, as his blog indicates that he is a free lance journalist.

Desperate Dems

Some state Democrat Party leaders are proposing a new law which would compel state lawmakers to work on the budget impasse. The proposed law would call for lawmakers to meet for increasingly long sessions until a budget is passed. Police would be called upon to bring reluctant lawmakers to the table, by force, if necessary. Should any state lawmakers argue against universal health care, police are instructed to taze them repeatedly until they realize their error. OK, I made up that last part.