Sunday, July 29, 2007

On Dogs and Liberals

Normally when a black person is accused of or convicted of a crime, many liberals will attempt to minimize the severity of the crime, lament the racism in the justice system, dispute the evidence, and otherwise enable the criminal in any way possible. Not so with Michael Vick, the black professional football player accused of involvement with a dog fighting business and the gruesome torture and deaths of numerous dogs. Vick has essentially been tried and convicted in the media already with nary a whisper of support from the usual suspects. I suspect he would have had far more support had he been accused of rape and murder.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

What Would Michael Webber Do?

Dear Michael J. Weber,

I just finished reading your commentary in today's Milwaukee Journal. Your compassion for the world's poor comes shining through. I wonder if you might be willing to offer me some advice.

I own a retail store in Racine. Most of the products that we sell are made in poor countries. I try to buy the best products that I can at the lowest possible price. What's more, I rarely consider the plight of the artisans who are making the products that I buy and sell.

I never really thought that I was contributing to world poverty. In fact, I thought the opposite. I figured that buying products from the poor would help the poor while not buying from them would increase their unemployment and poverty problems. What will happen to the poor if we stop buying from them?

You suggest that we "watch what we buy, learn where it's made and by whom." That sounds good but I am afraid that it is impossible. Even though I am one of the buyers for my store, I can tell you the country of origin of the product and that is about it. With hundreds of different product lines and millions more to choose from, how could I possibly detirmine the working conditions, salaries, environmental records etc... of the workers and companies that I buy from? Which products from which companies are contributing to the problem and which products from which companies are contributing to the solution?

What should I do Michael? Should I close down my store? Should I switch from imports to products made in the USA?

I try my best to be a conscientious person and businessman. I try to do the right thing. What would you advise me to do? Thank you for taking the time to consider my dilemma.

Denis Navratil

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Discipline Dangers

Perhaps you have heard the story of the local man who caught his stepkids stealing. He then made them stand on the street corner with sandwich boards announcing their misdeeds for all to see. This admittedly unique method of discipline prompted three calls to the police, wondering whether the man was abusing his children or otherwise breaking the law. He wasn't.

But the incident left me wondering. Has anyone ever called the police to complain that a parent wasn't disciplining their child? I think the children who aren't punished for stealing will cause our society far more problems than those who are punished.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Response From Mr. Stanford From Journal Sentinel

The following is a response to my recent blog, Letter From a Caveman, that I sent to Journal Sentinel columnist Gregory Stanford.

Mr. Navratil:

Thanks for your message. Your thesis, though intriguing, has glaring flaws. The one I shall mention is that it just does not pan out in practice. States with higher rates of taxation than Wisconsin – among them Minnesota, California and Massachusetts – are among the nation’s leaders in economic activity. And you completely ignore the economic-development impact of public spending – OK, I’m mentioning a second flaw. Try to go to market without roads or hire a good workforce without schools. Oh, and I thought I was being gentle with Speaker Huebsch.

Gregory Stanford
Editorial Writer/Columnist
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Budget Compromise?

The Democratic State Senate and the Republican State Assembly have passed dramatically different budget proposals. The Dems plan calls for universal health care and other tax hikes that would double our level of taxation, while the Repubs plan holds the line on taxes. So now both sides get together to hash out their differences and try to cobble together a budget to send to Governor Doyle. They should compromise, right? Meet halfway. In the middle there is truth etc...

Not necessarily. A split the differences budget agreement would still entail a massive tax increase.

Compromise can be a wonderful thing, but it must be used wisely. My son will often lobby my wife and I regarding his bed time. Suppose we adopted the compromise technique. We might propose to hold the line on his bedtime while he would ask for a half hour extension. So he gets fifteen minutes. Then he gets smart. He proposes a renegotiation. We seek to hold the line, he proposes a two hour extension. We settle on an hour. If one is always willing to compromise, one will always lose ground to an aggressor. Sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand.

And so it is with our budget impass. Do the Dems really want to double our taxes, or is it just a means to increase them substantially after a Republican compromise? Do Republicans actually believe in holding the line on taxes or lowering them, or are they willing to abandon that notion in the spirit of compromise?

If compromise is seen as the end all be all, how long before you are fully compromised?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Letter From A Caveman

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Gregory Stanford compares State Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, unfavorably, to a caveman. Huebsch's mistake, in Stanford's view, is to fail to account for the modest spending by the state of Wisconsin, instead focusing solely on the high taxes. The following is my response to Mr. Stanford:

Dear Mr. Stanford;

Please allow this caveman to take a crack at the economic issues you brought forward in your commentary today. I think you have made several mistakes.

"Wisconsin- which taxes on the high end in comparison to other states- spends in the middle. The widespread assumption has been that Wisconsin, a big time taxer, must be a big-time spender", you write. Yet this caveman is not the least bit surprised by this news. High rates of taxation result in less economic activity. Less economic activity means the government has less money to confiscate from the private sector. Even with high rates of taxation, total government revenue can decrease because of the reduced economic activity. With less revenue, there must be reduced spending or more borrowing. Of course this phenomenon is well known among my cave-mates. There is nothing more discouraging than when we return home triumphantly with a juicy whooly mammoth only to have government take all but the scraps. Sometimes I don't even want to get off my rock in the morning.

"Yet that bogus assumption (that we are big spenders) guides policians to lower Wisconsin's high tax ranking by driving down spending" you write. Unfortunately, nobody in elected office is trying to drive down spending. At best they are trying to limit the increases in spending. In either case, the way to lower our tax ranking is not by reducing spending but by reducing taxes. Reducing spending without lowering taxes will simply result in a government surplus, not that that is all bad.

Another mistake that you make is to compare high taxes, or the high rate of taxation, with spending, in dollars. This is like comparing a sabre tooth tiger to one of your domesticated canines, or as the more evolved might say, comparing apples and oranges. Wisconsin's modest spending is the result of our high tax rate, and the corresponding decrease in economic activity and ultimately government revenue, certainly not frugality on the part of your elected officials. I think you will find that your government officials will spend all the money that they get from the private sector, and then some, regardless of the tax rate. As such, spending rankings are irrelevant. The key to economic growth is for your citizens to prevent the charlatans from taking too much of your money in the first place, thereby spurring more economic activity. You may borrow my club.

And finally, my cavemates and I no longer use ad hominem or ad bipedinem attacks when arguing, recognizing it as the weakest form of argument. Perhaps you could have been more charitable towards Speaker Mike Huebsch.

I suggest you rethink your whole argument. But what do I know?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Olde Madrid

I went to the new Spanish restaurant, Olde Madrid on 6th Street, last night fully expecting lousy service. Has anyone else noticed the lingering bitterness among the Spanish over the pummelling we gave them in the Spanish-American War? Get over it already!

But seriously, I was expecting lousy service because new restaurants in Racine often get huge crowds when they are just opening and before they have worked out the kinks.

There were some service issues, none of which really bothered me. We were asked to move to a smaller table after having already been seated, and bar service was slow. But the staff was working hard and they were very pleasant under the difficult circumstances.

And the food was good. They gave us complimentary hummus that we both liked and we had the traditional pealla (sp?) dish which was excellent.

Ambiance was also nice. Give it a try.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

On Race and Retail

I know my recent postings have been, well, lacking in diversity, as my topics have centered primarily on racial issues. But I have another that I hope will be of interest.

We recently received a complaint from a black woman at our store. As an aside, I would like to point out that the vast majority of our interections with customers are positive, however, most of those are not particularly noteworthy, or blogworthy. Anyway, the woman called us the day after she had visited our store. She stated that she was not greeted when coming into our store, while some white people were greeted. Additionally, she could have used some help, but none was offered. She stated that she left the store without making a purchase, and she felt as though her race was a factor in her treatment.

FYI, I was not present in the store on the day in question. Neither of my employees remember the woman having been in the store. Our unwritten practice is to greet people when they enter the store. Sometimes this is awkward, if, for example, some customers are between us and any new customers. In that instance, we would not typically shout past customers to greet someone. Sometimes we are busy with customers and don't have an opportunity to greet new arrivals. Of course, none of us know if these factors were involved, as none of us remember the woman.

But let us assume that the woman's version of events is accurate and I have no reason to doubt her. Is it fair for her to assume that her poor treatment was the result of her color and imagined hostility, on our part, towards black people?

Interestingly, we have noticed an increase in black customers. I welcome this development, obviously, as we, like everyone else in business, want to increase the number of customers that we serve.

My own conclusion is that the woman's reaction was mistaken and unfair to us.

My question to FreeRacine readers is this: When you have an unsatisfactory interaction in a business, do you typically assign a sinister motive to the business person or business owner? If so, or not, why?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Single Minded Diversity

I have seen numerous articles about UW Parkside's efforts to achieve racial and ethnic diversity. There was another such article in today's Journal Times.

I have yet to see an article about any efforts to improve the quality of instruction, or to improve the curriculum, or to improve the quality of research, or to attract a more academically qualified student body.

The efforts to improve UW Parkside seem anything but diverse.

Friday, July 13, 2007

For Your Amusement

I am selling my wares this weekend at a festival in Milwaukee. When I arrived at my booth, a lady was setting up her wares in my assigned location. I asked for the management of the event to resolve the problem, and they did so, in my favor. At which point, the woman became completely unglued. She claimed the decision was made in my favor because management was power hungry and sexist. She swore like a drunken sailor, in two languages nonetheless, and was ultimately removed from the event. It was quite an ugly display.

Her bumper sticker read "Loving Kindness Is My Religion".

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

On Gender Disparities in the Justice System

Well it seems that some don't like my suggestion that racial disparites in the jail population may be caused by increased criminal activity among black people. So I will apply their thinking to the problem of gender disparities in the criminal justice system.

Of course it is common knowledge that our jails are mostly filled with males. Why are there so many men in jail relative to women? It must be sexism right? Or institutional gender bias? Or is it those all female juries? Or is it gender profiling? Why do our mostly male police officers prefer to arrest other men? Could it be that they are acting out their homoerotic fantasies by wrestling other men to the ground and handcuffing them?

As a man, I think we should take a serious look at this problem. Perhaps Governor Doyle can commission a study on the subject. After all, the gender disparity in the criminal justice system is far greater than the racial disparity.

On Racial Disparities in the Justice System

I attended the Governor's Commision on Reducing Racial Disparities in the Wisconsin Justice System public hearing yesterday at Gateway.

After listening to two hours of testimony, I felt compelled to speak. This is because only one perspective was being offered. That perspective was that the racial disparity was caused by crooked cops, racial profiling, institutional bias, all white juries, and of course, the catch-all, racism.

Another possible explanation, I offered, was that perhaps blacks were committing more crimes, and that if so, we should explore the possible reasons. Perhaps it is the glorification of criminality in music and fashion that is so evident among young black men.

As I was concluding my comments, I indicated that I was willing, even eager, to engage with anyone who thought I was wrong or misinformed. I am still waiting.

Thank You, Robin Vos

State Representative Robin Vos has managed to include school vouchers in the State Assembly's state budget. With a Democratic governor, a Democratic State Senate, and most impotantly, strong opposition from WEAC, the state teachers union, the proposal has no chance of being included in the final budget. Even so, it is worth debating, and it will be worth noting who among our elected officials want to force poor children to stay in failing public schools. Thank you, Robin Vos.

Friday, July 06, 2007

On Fashion and Consequences

I watched the parade on the fourth of July and I could not help but notice the fashion on display by young black men and boys. Nearly all the black boys and young men wore t-shirts that extended nearly to their knees. A smaller percentage wore pants so loose that they had to use one hand to keep their pants from falling to their ankles.

Now I am no expert on fashion, but it is my understanding that this kind of dress has its origins in prison-wear. If so, then the vast majority of young black males in attendance at Racine's parade were identifying with and glorifying ( wittingly or otherwise) prison culture and criminality.

Of course I wonder whether these fashion decisions will have adverse consequences. I can't imagine that they wouldn't.

I own a small business and I have a few employees. Because of the nature of my business, I must place a high level of trust in my employees. As such, it would be foolish of me to hire anyone who chooses to glorify criminals and criminality. Why take the chance when I could choose someone from a culture that does not glorify crime?

The real victims are the young black boys and men who reject prison culture. They would face unfair obstacles because they come from a subculture that glorifies crime and criminality. An employer, lacking information on the potential employee, may well wonder whether the young black man identifies with criminals. My guess is that it would be illegal to ask a prospective employee whether he wears baggy pants and long T-shirts or whether he glorifies criminals, so the question will go unasked and the young black man will not get the job. The blame in this case rests not with a racist employer but with a subculture that glorifies criminality.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Blogging Blues

I have not been blogging too much lately. I have been busy with work, visitors, and I have been enjoying the most excellent stretch of weather that I can remember.

But there is more to my lack of blogging entries. I am becoming a bit bored with blogging. With no disrespect intended to my readers, I think the best, or most widely read blogs, tend to have multiple short entries rather than fewer in-depth offerings. I prefer to really dig in to fewer subjects rather than to gloss over many. And I sense a certain "preaching to the choir" aspect to blogging. It is not freedom loving, free market fiscal conservatives that I wish to engage. I want to engage the "government can solve my problems" crowd in the hopes of winning them over.

I don't intend to abandon this blog. However, I am increasingly interested in starting a monthly alternative newspaper. At this time, I am way too busy to undertake such a project. But my goal is to produce a trial issue sometime later this year. I welcome any ideas or suggestions.