Monday, December 31, 2007

FreeRacine Fest #2

FreeRacine readers and contributors are cordially invited to meet at 7 pm, Thursday, January 10th at the Ivanhoe in downtown Racine. We will solve all the worlds problems by, say 7:30, after which we will celebrate. One and all are welcome, even my detractors. Please let me know if you will be attending. Thanks.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Howling at the Moon, Indeed

If you want some insight into the reasons for the decline of education in our country, read "Howling and other tips for educators" by retired elementary school principal Mike Schutz. You can find it here:

Shutz maintains that the "good schools," those with high standardized test scores, "are made up of students who come from families with well-educated parents who value education." Shutz adds that schools have no control over this variable.

But schools can control other factors. Many of these factors "are intangible and not measurable by a standardized test, according to Shutz. Shutz has "no expectation that these will raise test scores. But they just might make a child's learning experience more meaningful."

Shutz believes that we need kindness in schools. We need playfulness. We need to slow down. We need to let kids be kids. We need good relationships in school. And we need to let teachers teach.

Now there is nothing obviously wrong with Shutz's suggestions. It is not what Shutz wrote that bothers me. It is what he didn't write.

I think the most important job of a principal at an underperforming school is to accept no excuses. You know, like the one Shutz and so many others offers, the one that goes like this: "We can't help it if these kids have parents that don't care about education."

Poor children and children with imperfect parents can learn. And it is the schools job to teach them. If you can't do it, let another school give it a try. Stop making excuses. And teachers who continue to make excuses should be fired. Not transferred to another school. Fired.

Shutz used to lead his school in "howling at the moon" for no apparent educational purpose. That might be fun, but our schools need more than pointless futile gestures.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Just Wondering

Why does Racine have a Housing Department and a Fair Housing Department?

Comments on Mayor's State of City Speech

I just read Mayor Beckers state of the city speech at and thought I would offer a few comments.

First the good news. The city has eliminated 100 full time positions. Normally politicians don't list increased unemployment as an accomplishment, but I am with the mayor on this one. Has anyone noticed a decrease in services? I haven't.

The mayor is proud of the Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team, noting that we now have only 12 boarded up buildings whereas before there were 50. Fewer boarded up buildings is good, of course, but how much did it cost us? Did it take six full time staff members at $80,000 per year for four years? Would it have been cheaper to condemn the properties, bulldoze them and then call it a rain garden?

The mayor acknowledges that the city is not growing and the major initiative to reverse that trend is the uptown artist initiative where they hope to have a thriving artist center. I am still waiting to hear from the mayor about the specifics here, but early indications are that it will cost a fortune. Would it be wiser to spend the money on more police officers or to lower the tax burden on the productive members of Racine?

But my basic problem with the speech is a philosophical one. Government can solve all our problems was the general theme. If that were true, the last fifty years of liberal rule in Racine would have resulted in a thriving and growing population with little crime and much employment. What we actually see is just the opposite. Look for more of the same.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thought of the Day

Nothing polarizes quite like the truth.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


I was out and about yesterday, having a cup of coffee, when I heard a most interesting conversation nearby. Two people who evidentally are involved with or well aquainted with the uptown artist initiative were talking. They indicated that the cost of rehabbing one of the uptown buildings will be almost $1 million. They also indicated that the city would sell the two units for $200,000 each. If these people are correct, the city is planning on a loss of $600,000 to bring two artists to Racine, or to relocate two artists already in Racine. I have called Mayor Becker's office to confirm, deny, or clarify. I will update this posting if I hear from the mayor.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Problems Solved

Finally, our local government has solved all the serious problems, such that we can now turn our attention to our total lack of public rain gardens. Yes, a rain garden in the works for Racine, as part of a larger, unspecified environmental education program, this according to a recent Milwaukee Journal article. My question: what is a rain garden and how have we managed so long without one?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Union Costs

"A decision to outsource the work of one of the city's smallest departments could end up costing Racine big, union officials said."

That was the first line in a Journal Times article concerning the city's decision to hire a private company to handle the Management Information System department.

The "big cost" of such a move would not be because the private company is more expensive or less competent but rather because the city could lose money in arbitration. City officials are willing to take that risk as "we don't have the resources or the stable of qualified employees" to get the job done according to City Administrator Ben Hughes.

The dispute it seems centers around the city employee's pensions, their job security, their pay etc... and while that is no doubt important for them, it is worth remembering that government's purpose is to serve the public in the most efficient manner. It is not the function of government to ensure good jobs and high salaries for government employees.

It is my hope that the city's decision will not cost us big. If union officials and current state law prevents city officials from acting in the best interests of the public, then the public, on this issue at least, will be ruled by unelected union leaders. Now that is a big cost.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Illogical Atheists

Our local atheists must be getting spooked by Christmas. Mike Ursu has a letter to the editor today arguing, among other things, that "mindless indoctrination in religious fantasies" is dangerous and that "The church can't offer proof to support their claims so they have to resort to indoctrinating children before they gain the ability to think critically." Now these are legitimate concerns that religions should have an answer for.

But Mike seems to want to exempt his own atheism from scrutiny when he writes "Atheism isn't detrimental to children." Mike assails religions for their lack of proof. Very well, but I don't recall his proof of the non-existence of God. Wouldn't then the teaching of atheism to children also involve the dangerous indoctrination of unproven assertions?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Atheist Principles?

You have got to love a good old fashioned debate on the public square. What could be more American? Today we have Christians versus the athiests and dueling monuments. Read about it here:

Now I do not wish to debate the theology, rather, I wish to explore the reasoning and the behavior of the atheist.

If I understand the atheists argument, it is that there ought to be seperation between church and state, and that religious displays should not be on public property as this amounts to shoving religion down other's throats. Presumably the atheists would also want laws which forbid their own beliefs, or lack of them, from being expressed on public property. Lead atheist Al Sorenson said as much; "if that (nativity scene) wasn't here, then this pyramid wouldn't be here either."

Thus, Sorenson holds the principle that expressions of belief should not occur on public property. But he is willing to abandon his own principle, by displaying a monument to atheism, in order to demonstrate what exactly? That two wrongs make a right?

I am not impressed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Debate Over, I Win

If you are getting tired of all the global warming posts here on FreeRacine, I have great news. This will be the last one. Why? Because the debate is over and I have won. Oh sure, there are still some anonymous bloggers and a few "scientists" that may still wish to debate me, but their time is up and they lost. Besides, by now everyone realizes that the losing "scientists" were bought and paid for by desperate environmental organizations looking for attention and money. Their greed makes me ashamed to be an American, but that is a topic for another day. Now, if your not so sure about my victory, consider the following: there is not one peer reviewed article, not even one, that disputes my victory. But just to be charitable, let us consider the possibility that I am wrong. Even if I am wrong, the economy and the environment will be better for it. Why is that you ask? Because meddling governments will not be regulating and redistributing for lost causes anymore. And this renewed appreciation for freedom will have a positive effect on our environment as well because governments that protect private property have better environmental records than socialist countries. So the debate is over folks and I have won. I now await my Nobel prize.

Shifting the Burden of Proof

If person A is advocating policy changes based on an alleged impending crisis, and person B doubts the claims of person A, upon which person should the burden of proof fall? In any sane society, the burden of proof would fall on the person A.

Imagine if the burden of disproof were to fall to person B. Our society would be a mess. If I wanted new windows, I could hurl rocks through them and then blame it on my neighbor. It would be all but impossible for him to prove that he didn't throw the rocks, and I could get my neighbor to pay for my new windows.

It is plainly obvious upon whom the burden of proof should fall, but the global warming alarmists want to shift the burden of disproof to the skeptics. You have seen it recently on this blog, and now the JT is getting in the act. "What counts is that predictions of global warming have not been refuted by strong evidence" says the JT.

True enough, but will shift the burden of proof at our own peril. Or perhaps we could use this new standard for a worthy cause.

Did you know that a giant Easter Bunny will be arriving from Mexico in ten years to eat up all of our crops and our children? We must act now and build a fence.

Shut Up, Fork It Over

Leave it to the Journal Times to capture the essence of the leftist/statist/socialist position on global warming. Read it for yourself if you like at:

The editorial is entitled Stop talking, start spending. The JT argues that "the whole country has missed some economic opportunity" as "US companies could right now be selling carbon dioxide-control equipment or advanced solar cells to the developing world instead of fighter jets-and could be making a lot more money." "Even if (global warming) skeptics are proven true," the nation will gain "new industries to employ the manufacturing workers whose livelihoods have fled overseas; and an economy that is overall more efficient and has more capital to invest because it's spending less to but energy."

A few thoughts. Is there something preventing US companies from "right now" selling environmental products overseas? Unless the product sales are discouraged by import tariffs or the lack of free trade generally, then no, nothing is preventing our "whole country" from this glorious "economic opportunity." More likely, the products in question are themselves economically inefficient, thus requiring a massive taxpayer subsidy to create this new "industry." The money required to "start spending" will be yours and it will be used to prop up an industry that would not exist without it. And the JT then argues that subsidizing an inefficient industry will somehow result in more capital and a more efficient economy. How so, I wonder? Capital, your capital, will be transferred from capital investments not requiring government subsidy to an industry that can't make it without government subsidy. This is called waste, not efficiency, and it will harm our economy. Someone, anyone at the JT should read an introductory economics textbook.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Truth or Victory

There are two approaches that one can take into an argument/debate/discussion, it seems to me. One is to seek victory at all costs. The other is to seek the truth. Let us consider the likely outcomes of these two approaches.

If the reason to debate is to achieve victory, truth is a secondary consideration. The primary concern being winning, there must also be a loser. In order to avoid being the loser, one must be prepared to cling to a losing argument even in the face of truth. It is at this point when the victory-at-all-costs debater may need to engage in some unscrupulous tactics like the personal attack, changing the subject, creating straw man arguments and so on. This kind of debater will sometimes accept a false assertion but think that they have won the debate.

The truth seeking debater seeks truth first and foremost. This debater is willing to accept his opponents argument if it is shown to be true. This debater may lose the debate but will more likely arrive at the truth in the process. In this kind of debate, there really is no loser. It is a win win situation as both participants arrive at the truth.

I see far too many of the win-at-all-costs debaters and too few truth seekers.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Pope Benedict and Global Warming

Read it here, prophets of doom:

Here is my favorite line from the article: "The leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics suggested that fears over man-made emissions melting the ice caps and causing a wave of unprecedented disasters were nothing more than scare-mongering."

I wonder why the Journal Times didn't cover this story.

Hungry Kids?

Are too many Wisconsin Kids starting the day hungry? Pete at Racine Post thinks so. His evidence is that, of the children eligible for a free breakfast, many are not receiving the free breakfast. Shame on us, we are even behind Arkansas in feeding the children.

Of course there is no actual evidence offered to suggest that the children in question are actually hungry. The "evidence" is that they are not being served breakfast at school.

Is it evidence of my hunger if I didn't eat a Happy Meal this morning? No, it is evidence that I didn't eat a Happy Meal, but it is not evidence that I didn't eat.

Could it be that the children are being fed at home by their parents before school? And if so, wouldn't this suggest that Wisconsin parents are more responsible that those in Arkansas who prefer to shift that responsibility to the state?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Global Warming Hot Air

Let's try this again. I watched a film, The Great Global Warming Swindle, which asserts, that while there is a correlation between CO2 in the atmosphere and global warming, the CO2 does not cause the global warming. If anything, the film asserts, the global warming might result in increasing levels of CO2, as it is the global warming that occurs first, followed by increases in CO2. The film also advances the notion that the sun might be the culprit.

But rather than address that question, here is what we got instead:

Michael Gibson came closest to addressing the question. Congratulations Michael! But rather than address the films basic assertion, he got into the minutiae, getting sidetracked by some minor point about a chart used in the film. He uses the authors alleged and minor error as the reason to dismiss the entire theory.

Another contributor enlightened us with a stirring albeit irrelevant quote from John F. Kennedy who was no doubt talking about something other than global warming.

Another anonymous genius similarly sidestepped the question but gladly offered a lengthy dissertation on population and energy consumption.

Yet another offered a still longer post, copied from who knows where, that addressed the dangers of global warming.

Another poster avoided the question but assured us that scientists worldwide accept the global warming facts, except those that don't of course who are obviously paid by coal producers and who think the earth is flat.

What we are seeing on this blog is a microcosm of the problem. Rather than debate the issue, global warming alarmist instead prefer to monopolize the discussion, change the subject, declare that the debate is already over and that they won, or insult the infidels. Anything and everything other than actual debate.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Correlation and Causation and Global Warming

I listened to the Great Global warming Swindle movie today and was intrigued by one point especially. The narrator noted that there was agreement with Al Gore concerning a correlation between CO2 and global warming. Where there is increased CO2, there has been increased global temperatures. Where they part ways with Gore et al is that they don't confuse correlation with causation. Rather, they have concluded that, if anything, global warming causes an increase in CO2 rather than the other way around. They offered evidence to that effect, suggesting that the global warming comes first, followed hundreds of years later by increases in CO2. I am no scientist so I will not weigh in on the accuracy of that claim, but it is an intriguing point. It is a common mistake to confuse correlation with causation. Perhaps Al Gore has done so.

On Clarence Thomas

I lived in Chicago in the early 90's when Clarence Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court. I was swept up in the excitement and I assumed that Thomas was guilty of the sexual harassment claims levelled by his former staffer Anita Hill. In Illinois, Carol Mosely Braun won her race for the US Senate in part because many voters, including yours truly, were disgusted by the cross examination of Anita Hill by her haughty all male inquisitors. I can recall Thomas's angry outburst about the confirmation process which he described as a high tech lynching. A part of me wondered if he was telling the truth. I pushed that thought out of my mind.

I just read Thomas's book called My Grandfathers Son. He has lead an interesting life, quite apart from the Anita Hill drama. He was raised by his grandparents who raised he and his brother in a very strict manner. These kids worked all the time and had no time or inclination to get in trouble as they would have to deal with their grandfather if they did. They went to Catholic schools where the nuns neither made or accepted excuses. Clarence Thomas worked very hard and he was very successful academically even as he went on to nearly all white schools.

There are probably some who could never believe that it was the liberal lying and not the conservative. And we can never know for sure, but I am more inclined to believe Thomas after having read his book. His grandparents had instilled some solid values in Thomas. He strayed from those values from time to time, as he has openly admitted, but the Anita Hill smearing now seems like a typical "ends justifies the means" character assassination.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Silly Season

There were some strange letters to the editor today.

"If we build the train and leave the highway at 6 lanes, and the highway is congested, lots of people will take the train, saving tons of carbon emissions" argues Mary Spengler. But congestion will mean that more cars will be on the road for longer periods of time, spewing even more CO2.

In another letter, Sarah Kangas takes on Kimberly-Clark and All-Saints Hospital, arguing that tissue paper should be made from recycled materials rather than the trees that they apparently use. But aren't trees a renewable resource?

But this one takes the cake: Karla Olinger argues that it is a "gross understatement" to describe our health care system as a "national disgrace" that is "pathetically behind Cuba." Why would anyone present an argument and then declare that their own argument is grossly understated? Tell us how you really feel Karla, don't understate your hatred for your country!

And Karla, I don't think I am overstating anything when I suggest that many FreeRacine readers would be willing to chip in to purchase for you a one way ticket to Cuba.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bag Your Skepticism

The Journal Times warns us today that "blogs are not automatically more serious or believable than the flyers one used to find stapled to utility poles" and that they are "merely the newest medium through which dubious old messages can be passed..." and that we should "keep a bag of skepticism handy to leaven the assertions which you find."

Good advice. One should also carry "a bag of skepticism" when reading the assertions contained in the Journal Times.

But there are exceptions to every rule. All material offered here at FreeRacine, excepting the comments section, is unequivocally true an should be unquestionably accepted as such by all readers. Got that anon?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

On Predators

I am about twenty pounds overweight and I have a mild headache. I blame predatory grocers and a predatory bartender, respectively. Can't pay back your loans? Find a predator to blame.

The word predator is taking on a whole new meaning before our eyes and I intend to embrace the new and expanded meaning of the word.

Your property taxes will soon be arriving. If your bill increases, you can blame our predatorial politicians.

Friday, December 07, 2007

On Greatness and the Left

Yesterday I described the great Thomas Sowell as great and I was taken to task for doing so by an anonymous lefty blogger. I did so for two reasons; one, Thomas Sowell is a great economist and a great thinker, and two, I enjoy tweaking the left at every opportunity.

Now why would describing someone as great tweak the left? Well, greatness and egalitarianism, a tendency of many on the left, are very much at odds with one another. If equality is your goal, then greatness is your enemy.

It is this mindset that spawns the leftist attacks on greatness that we are seeing with greater frequency every day. This is why everyone gets a trophy instead of just the champions. It is why some schools are doing away with valedictorians and honor rolls. It is one of the reasons why WalMart is under constant attack.

Some no doubt are unable to enjoy the greatness of others as it reminds them of their own shortcomings. For the healthy among us, enjoy a great person today!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

On Watching "Louder Than Words" or Not

Is there any point in watching the 9-11 Truther's movie "Louder Than Words"? An anonymous poster thinks I should. I think this is the movie being shown repeatedly on Racine's access chanel. I read the Wikpedia account of the film. That suggests to me that I have better things to do with my time. But go ahead anon, tell me why I'm wrong.

Assignment for Walden Students

The great Thomas Sowell asks a timely question:

"Now that the British television documentary, "The Great Global Warming Swindle" is available on DVD, will those schools that forced their students to watch Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth" also show them the other side? Ask them."

And so I will. So how about it Michael Gibson, Sam Braun, Katrina, 12 year old, etc... Your assignment for today is to ask your teacher to show you "The Great Global Warming Swindle." Please report back.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Planning To Fail

People are not exactly lining up to live on the 1000 block of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. Apparently even the homeless don't want to live there-the last owners were a homeless shelter who lost the property in forclosure. And City Development Director Brian O'Connell acknowledges that the cost to build on the property will exceed what houses could sell for there, according to a recent article in the Journal Times. So naturally the city wants to invest your money in this losing proposition. They have already spent $190,000 to buy the property and they project that the demolition cost will be another $110,000. Developers, all of them with their hands out, will cost taxpayers even more.

Do the leaders of our city realize that Racine is declining in population? As such we have excess housing in all likelihood. Do we really want to attract still more people to our city that can't provide for themselves? Is this the kind of planning we want for Racine?

Monday, December 03, 2007

An Excellent Question

I have never done one of these hat tip things, but Caledonia Unplugged asks an excellent question concerning Metra and KRM. Suppose Metra, with all their financial difficulties, decides to cut service to Kenosha? What assurances do we have/will we have that our Milwaukee to Kenosha train will continue on to Chicago?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Move Over Shakespeare

Parkside Theatre will soon be performing "The Laramie Project." The play is "the most frequently produced play on college campuses since its 1999 debut" according to the article in the Journal Times. The play explores the impact of the gruesome murder of a gay student named Matthew Shepard.

Reviews of the play and scrutiny of the plays supporters suggest that it is highly political, with pro gay and anti Christian themes as well as advocacy for hate crime legislation.

My point here is NOT to diminish the horror experienced by Matthew Shepard, nor is it to criticize homosexuals, or to advocate for Christianity, or to weigh in one way or the other on hate crime legislation, or even to criticize Parkside for their choice of plays.

My point here IS to wonder aloud about the political culture on college campuses across the country, assuming the truth in the claim that the "Laramie Project" is indeed the most produced play on college campuses. Is the point of theatre to advance political causes? Must every aspect of a college education be politicized?