Friday, April 27, 2007

A Good Cause?

As a small business owner in downtown Racine, I am frequently asked to give donations for one cause or another. It is a delicate problem.

For starters, it is likely that the average person on the street has more cash than the average retailer in downtown. So I would go broke if I gave to even one fourth of those that request money or other donations.

Perhaps I am being a bit sensitive here, but the requests are often accompanied by promises to patronize the business. The implication to me is that a denied request could mean no patronization.

So I do my best to gently deny the requests when I must, and this is difficult. Often someone needs life saving surgery or a parent died and the child needs money for this or that. It can be heartbreaking.

Yesterday an employee of my business received a call from someone asking for money to fund a party for Racine Unified secretaries. Unlike most requests, my donation would not be tax deductable. So I didn't feel even the slightest twinge of guilt in denying the request. Truth be told, my employee took it upon herself to deny the request on my behalf. Anyway,why would anyone agree to pay for the RUSD secretaries to have a party?

Mob Rule at Unified

Democracy is a dangerous form of government. In a pure democracy, 51% of voters could agree to murder the remaining 49%. The democratic mob must be restrained.

One way to restrain the potentially harmful effects of democracy is to ensure that a minority has rights. The right to live, the right to own property, the right to vote, the right to free speech etc... are among the rights afforded to us whether we are in the majority or not.

Unfortunately, the majority of Racine Unified board members seek to do away with some fundamental rights that most of us take for granted.

The board is attemting to prevent dissenting board members from criticizing the school district, the superintendent (at the superintendents request) and other board members. They also seek to ensure that a majority of board members must agree before an item will be on the agenda for public discussion. The rights of free speech and the right to petition government are apparently a nuisance to the majority of our school board.

If there was truth in advertising, the slogan for the next referendum would be "Shut up and pay."

Monday, April 23, 2007

SAGE and the teachers unions

I must applaud the Journal Times' editorial today entitled "Democrats could use some SAGE advice". The JT points out that state Democrats, in a partisan vote, blocked a proposed audit of the SAGE program. SAGE is a program designed to reduce class sizes to 15 or fewer in order to improve student performance. The JT rightly asks what harm would there be in studying whether or not the program works.

I suggest that the JT dig a little deeper. Their editorial did not mention the teachers unions. Let us not pretend that the teachers unions are a disinterested party. A lower teacher to student ratio means more teachers. Is there any doubt that the teachers unions support the SAGE program? And is there any doubt that if the teachers unions wanted an independent evaluation of the programs effectiveness, that that is exactly what would be happening? And is there any doubt that Democrats usually, if not always, vote the way the teachers unions want them to?

It makes perfect sense to study the effectiveness of government programs. If they are working, fund them. If they aren't, direct resources elsewhere.

The only reason to avoid the audit is because some peoples interests are served whether the program works or not. Those people are the teachers union leaders and some teachers. If the program can be expanded, regardless of its effectiveness, it is a win for the teachers union. That it might be a loss for school children and taxpayers is unimportant to the teachers unions.

The JT started their editorial with the following quote; "All in favor of sticking our heads in the sand, say aye." Their point was to ridicule the Democratic vote that favored ignorance over knowledge regarding the effectiveness of the SAGE program. But I wonder when the JT will take their own heads out of the sand and begin to understand the insidious influence of the teachers union on education and the democratic process.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Importing Democrats

The free market has failed. Yes, you read that correctly. Forget everything I have ever said about the virtues of capitalism. It is time for some government intervention. The free market is simply not producing enough artists.

The notion that artists will somehow save Racine is gaining strength again. Never mind that it didn't work the first time. Remember, 6th Street is the "Heart of the Arts" district. Yes, there are a few galleries remaining and a theatre, but the big push for an arts district hasn't really panned out. Anyway, it seems that now Uptown will be the new arts district and that our local government will make it happen, again.

I must humbly question this strategy. I think the market is telling us something. Artists don't make much money typically. If there were a real shortage, they would be making more money.

But the thinking is that artists will bring more to the table than just art. They will change neighborhoods, make things interesting etc, etc... all of which will foster economic development. I don't know about all that, but this much I do know; artists, more often than not, lean left. Offering leftists financial incentives to come to Racine is a brilliant political strategy for Democrats. But is it good for Racine? I think not.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Reraping Duke Lacrosse Players

Dear Mr. Kane;

I have several concerns about your recent commentary, "Powerful bear blame in Duke case."

Of greatest concern are your factual errors. You wrote that the Duke rape case "fell apart because of the unreliable nature of the accuser." Wrong. The case fell apart because there is no evidence to support the rape allegation. No DNA, no witnesses, no consistent truthful statements to support a rape charge. Nothing. The accused are innocent. When you write that the case fell apart because the accuser was unreliable, it suggests that the rape may well have occured and that a more reliable victim might have helped secure a conviction. But we know that the rape did not occur.

Later you write "The Duke lacrosse players might be innocent of rape..." Correction: The Duke lacrosse players ARE innocent of the rape charge. When you write that they might be innocent, the obvious implication is that they might also be guilty. They are not guilty of rape. They are innocent.

But apparantly you are having difficulty accepting the innocence of the white lacrosse players. "Questions still remain" and your friend Mr. Farrell says "I still think something happened, but in the end it got so contaminated, it's hard to tell what the truth is." No, we now know what the truth is. The players are innocent.

You are now engaged in a very public smearing of innocent athletes. Despite the evidence, you continue to suggest that the players are guilty of something (aren't we all?), possibly even rape.

Given a choice between being called a "nappy headed ho" or being subjected to ongoing suggestions that I am a rapist, I would take the "ho." What you are doing to the Duke players is far worse than what Don Imus did to the Rutgers basketball players. Yet your job is safe I am sure.

Friday, April 13, 2007

City of Racine Violates English Language Rules

According to an article in today's Journal Times, the city of Racine's Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team (UNIT) is substituting $50 inspection fees for $80 citations for building code violations. I wonder if they ran that idea past the city attorney.

Angry at your neighbor? Call the UNIT, make up some bogus violation, and your neighbor will be socked with a $50 inspection fee. Now I strongly suspect that the fee will only apply to those inspections that find a violation. So inspections that do not involve a violation will be free, while inspections that involve code violations will cost $50. Thus the city simply is actually engaged in semantics, substituting the word fee for citation. It is a citation but it is called a fee.

Also problematic is the appeals process, wherin those who recieve an "inspection fee" will have the opportunity to appeal to the chief building inspector, Rick Heller. It would seem to me that the only way to dispute an inspection fee is to argue that the inspection did not occur. It will be easy enough to prove that the inspection did indeed occur because the inspectors will be photographing the properties in question. Thus there would be no point in appealing. Of course we must remember that this is really a citation and not a fee, so I suspect that reasonable appeals of the citation will stand a fighting chance will Rick Heller, whom I have found to be a reasonable fellow.

The city is using the term fee when in reality they will simply be issuing citations and calling them fees. To me this is an obvious abuse of the English language. There should be an English Language Inspection Team (ELIT) and a fee, of course, for violators.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Euphemism Propagator

Why stop at undocumented immigrants? How about unsanctioned executioner, intimacy entrepreneur, unregulated pharmaceutical distributor, freelance fireman, extra-consensual lover, non-transactional consumer, volunteer window inspector, non-traditional mover, oathtaking taleteller, non-contracted private investigator, and force prone political expressionist?

Can you identify these members of society? Care to add some of your own?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Using Joshua Glover

Yesterday I saw a depiction of the Joshua Glover story on an underpass in Milwaukee, and it got me thinking.

For those of you who don't know the Glover story, he was a runaway slave who was captured in Wisconsin and jailed in Milwaukee. Law at the time was that his owner could retrieve him. Anyway, a large contingent of people from Racine went to Milwaukee and freed Joshua Glover.

It is a great story, but why is it receiving so much attention lately? The reason, I surmise, is that it allows us to bask in a feeling of moral superiority. We, the people of Wisconsin, recognized the evil of slavery, and we did something about it. Aren't we grand?

They were, we aren't. The Racinians who freed Joshua Glover knew right from wrong, and they acted accordingly. Could we do the same today? I doubt it. Many of the evils of the world are excused away as cultual differences. We should be more tolerant and understanding. Who are we to judge?

Many of us have lost the ability to judge right from wrong. We are paralyzed as a result. We will not confront evil because of our fear and uncertainty.

But we wish it wasn't so, so we use Joshua Glover to mask our present day impotence.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Bad to the Bone?

I recently returned from a trip to Washington D.C. where we celebrated my mothers birthday. I had occasion to speak with a high ranking (not so high that you would know him/her) State Department employee, who shall remain nameless, about our president and our foriegn policy. Let's just say that said employee is not fond of our president. I listened for some time about Bush's shortcomings when I decided to ask a simple question, "Has Bush done anything right?" The employee was unable to point to any decision, foriegn or domestic, that was good.

So we either have a president who has the uncanny ability to always make the wrong decision, or a State Department employee who has lost the ability to think objectively about our president. Which is it?

Righty Cramp

I have been too busy focussing on actual work to properly rant on the current state of Racine, so I apologize to disappointed readers. Feel free to weigh in with your election observations, Unified's annual money plea, etc...

Oh, I couldn't help noticing the spanking Alderman Helding put on his opponent. I wonder if he would consider a run for mayor. And if so, would he be to the right or the left of our current mayor?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Courage and Liberalism

Recently the Journal Times editorial board strongly urged State Representative Robin Vos to demonstrate courage by supporting commuter rail. I find this amusing.

If there was a Who's Who in Racine, virtually all of them would support commuter rail. The JT is a strong advocate. The Johnson companies support commuter rail and pay for the lobbying effort. RAMAC favors commuter rail. All of Racine's vocal lefties support commuter rail. Does it really take courage to go with the flow and support commuter rail?

I am reminded of my own path from moderate lefty to principled libertarian. The intellectual transition came first and was far easier. Questioning or challenging liberal orthodoxy takes courage. If you find yourself on a similar path, be prepared for strained or severed relationships.

Now there are some places where extolling the virtues of liberalism would indeed take courage. I think the Journal Times editorial staff should go on a field trip to Afganistan or Saudi Arabia. They should demand equal rights for women. They should demand that gays be permitted to marry. They should demand religious freedom in Iran.

Perhaps then they might learn the proper meaning of the word "courage."

Monday, April 02, 2007


When I am delayed by road construction, I am usually mildly annoyed at my misfortune. If I think any more about it, I will probably conclude that the workers are getting paid at above market rates, and that taxpayers are getting fleeced.

I am just returning from a trip to washington D.C. My taxi driver, an Ethiopian immigrant, was thrilled to see road construction. "What a beautiful country" he said. I asked him what it was about road construction that pleased him so. His answer; in his country, government will tax you, but they will never fix the roads or provide any worthwhile service for taxpayers.

We have it pretty good over here. It is up to us to keep it that way.