Friday, November 30, 2007

Liars Club?

I was teasing Kay from the other day, wondering when she, an admitted hunter and SUV driving WalMart shopper, would be expelled from the Democrat Party. They had a big tent was the response, more or less. Could I join, I asked. Yes of course was the anwer. I then explained that I stand for, among other things, less taxation, fewer regulations, school vouchers, and that I think that thing growing inside a pregnant woman is a human life. Her response was that my views were not aligned with those held by Democrats and that, technically speaking, I could not join if I were honest about my views. On the other hand, if I was a liar...

And now a disclaimer for the perpetually outraged. Kay did not say that I could join only if I lied about my views. I inferred that from her response. Furthermore, I don't think that Democrats are any more dishonest than the general public. This entire post is intended to be funny. Decide for yourselves if I have succeeded.

On Liquor Licensing, Objectivity and Subjectivity

I know this is not a sexy subject, but I wanted to explain to Greg Helding and others what my objections are to the current method of issuing liquor licenses in the city of Racine. And for the record, I have no interest in obtaining a liquor license.

My previous concern/complaint is that the process for obtaining a liquor license is highly subjective in nature. Applicants must endure a political process which includes input from nearby residents and other concerned citizens. This may sound like a fine idea to many people, but it certainly allows for any of the isms to taint the process and make it profoundly unfair to some. Often the "some" will be black, as there is often fear, reasonable or otherwise, associated with large numbers of black people at a club or bar.

Greg Helding responded to my concern by noting the dangers of government that attempts to remove subjectivity from the process. He noted problems with OSHA, the ADA, and equal opportunity laws that try to take subjectivity out of the process. His examples were good ones and I agree with his assertion that common sense/subjectivity must play a part in government.

However, we must distinguish between branches of government. Legislators, such as Greg Helding, write laws. The executive branch enforces them and the judicial branch interprets them. The subjectivity should be a key component of the latter two branches but not so much the former. Laws should be clearly written such that any liquor license applicant would know if he or she could obtain the license.

With regards to liquor licensing in Racine, it seems to me that the legislators, or alderman, are taking on executive and judicial functions in addition to their duties as lawmakers. Often their wrangling over prospective licensees includes discussions and or requirements to aid local law enforcement with security cameras, off duty policemen etc... and rejecting certain applicants often involves judging the likelihood that an applicant will one day run afoul of the law.

If our alderman were omniscient, this would be fine policy. Until such time, we should have an objective process for obtaining liquor licenses, coupled with a degree of subectivity in enforcement of the liquor laws and the judgements rendered against those who violate the laws.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Random Thoughts on KRM

I have pretty much stayed on the sidelines of the KRM debate. That may have to change.

Proponents of KRM are now proposing another funding method, a sales tax that would fund a regional transportation system. At least we will have the opportunity to shoot this down in a referendum.

KRM proponents were always telling us it is now or never when they were trying to get state funding and approval of a massive tax increase on car rentals. Well now is passed and the never never happened. They are back. It seems they are taking a page from the RUSD referendum playbook.

Racine's Regional Transportation Administration rep Jody Karls likes the sales tax idea because "You're making somebody else pay for it." Evidentally Jody Karls doesn't pay sales tax for his purchases in Racine. Perhaps there should be an investigation. On the other hand, if Karls can really get someone else to pay for KRM, he would have my full support. Perhaps he can convince the city councils in Denver or Miami to fund our train.

Once we agree to this RTA tax, we will have lost control forever. Does the Miller stadium tax ring a bell. Milwaukee is larger than us. I don't know the makeup of the RTA board, but I suspect it will be weighted towards Milwaukee. Do the citizens of Racine county really want to foot the bill for Milwaukee's bus system?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

On Tolerance

Last night I was at a gathering of twenty or so people. I was chatting amicably with a fellow, his wife and another couple. The subject of conversation centered on the work experiences of one of the men, a painter for the State of Wisconsin. After a while, the painter asked what I do for fun. I hesitated, then answered honestly, "I like to blog." He asked for the name of my blog. I hesitated again, having been through this before. I said something to the effect that he may find some of my views objectionable. But he persisted, asking why etc... until I had to explain my views on unions. My view, in brief, is that unions can be helpful for members but that they are often harmful to society at large. Though I delivered this viewpoint reluctantly, gently, and at his insistence, it soon became clear that he not only didn't like my opinion, but that he didn't like me. Like I said, I have been through this before. Oh well.

In recent years, I have gained greater clarity of my political views. I am comfortable holding them, discussing them, and defending them if neccessary. One of the consequences of this increased confidence is that a small minority of liberals will reject me personally because of the viewpoints that I hold. In other words, I am not only wrong, mistaken, naive etc..., but bad. Again, oh well.

Interestingly, when I was moderately left of center, I did not encounter a comparable rejection from conservatives.

My conclusion: conservatives are more tolerant than liberals, generally speaking.

Taking the Bait

I have been asked by my detractors to list my accomplishments here in Racine. No doubt they want to pick them apart, dispute them, or minimize their importance. I don't like to promote myself and if you look through my archives, you will see that I don't. I also don't like to dodge questions. So I either need to dodge a question or promote my accomplishments. I have chosen the latter. I will separate my accomplishments into two categories, professional and political. My personal accomplishments shall remain personal.

Professional accomplishments: My wife and I started a business from scratch about 14 years ago. When we moved to Racine, we rented a small storefront on Main street. We have sinced expanded significantly, nearly quadrupling in size. As part of our expansion, we purchased an eyesore in the 400 block of Main street, a block that was nearly dead at the time. That eyesore is now among the most attractive buildings downtown. The 400 block of Main street is now fairly solid, and we deserve some of the credit for that improvement. Part of our business is raising money for hospitals throughout the midwest. We have donated about $250,000 to hospitals in the last decade or so. We also employ people. At present we have four employees, among them a current RUSD student, an RUSD alum and college student, and a parent of an RUSD alum who happens to be a strong supporter of RUSD. I mention these RUSD connections and the contributions to hospitals so that you will understand that a successful boycotting campaign will result in collateral damage. Our economic activity generates considerable revenue for government. We of course pay state and federal income taxes, we pay local property taxes on two properties, we pay payroll taxes, and we generate alot of sales tax revenue. I don't even want to think about how much we pay in taxes, but I will say this to the boycotters; it is not wise for a parasite to kill its host.

Political accomplishments: I would consider myself a sort of freelance political activist. My first foray into political activism started when I began to explore the wisdom of having taxpayers foot the bill for an indoor ice arena. There were a multitude of reasons to oppose that idea, but among the most convincing is the notion that your average taxpayer should not be required to subsidize the activities of the rich. For this reason and others, I was aligned with many liberals in opposing this spending. Anyway, I had a hand in stopping that nonsense. I later wrote editorials in the Journal Times, at least two of which contributed to a fair outcome for oppressed people. In one I argued that the Lighthouse Church (I think that is the name), having purchased the former REAL school, renovated it, and gotten an occupancy permit form city hall, ought to be able to occupy their own building. Mayor Becker had other ideas, namely condos, and was using tactics of questionable legality to prevent the occupancy. My commentary may have helped the church. Church members think so and are grateful for my help. Another article may have helped a black couple get a liquor license. Our liquor licensing process deserves an overhaul, in large part because licensees are subject to a subjective process that includes, essentially, the blessings of neighbors. This may sound like a good idea to many, but it allows racism or any of the other isms to taint the process. Anyway, they got their license and subsequently botched their operation. It is harder to measure other political accomplishments, though I think that they are real. For example, my editorials in the JT, love em or hate em, sparked discussion of issues that need to be discussed. The same is true of this blog.

So go ahead anon et al, snipe away.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Kids and Politics

When I was twelve, I spent my time fishing, playing kick the can, and dreaming of a major league baseball career. I was not lecturing adults on global cooling or the dangers of DDT or any of the other now discredited media driven hysterias of my youth. But todays youth are different. They are far more politically active. The question of the day is, is this a good thing?

My guess is that like so many issues, there will be the same liberal/conservative divide. Liberals will by and large think it a good idea. Conservatives, not so much.

Children, by virtue of their age, have limited formal education. What formal education they do have comes almost entirely at the hands of liberals. They have very limited informal education or life experience to draw from. For the most part, they don't get paychecks and they don't pay taxes. They have no experience with the sophistry of politicians. They are less stable emotionally. As they mature and explore their world, they will often need the comfort and support and sense of belonging that can be provided by groups and causes.

For all of the above reasons, children are far easier to manipulate than mature adults. So they are a tempting target for agenda driven individuals. Recruiting children is a great way to swell the numbers for your cause.

Kids should be kids. There will be time enough later to confront adult issues. We shouldn't use them for our own political purposes.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Response to Walden Green Supporters

My apologies for the delayed response to the many passionate comments on the solar panel issue. I was out of town on business for two days.

Anyway, the facts that I used for my blog entry were those that I gathered from the Journal Times newspaper article on Sunday. Since I am a conscientious recycler, I no longer have the article at home, and am unable to review the JT article at this time. However, I would not be surprised if the JT article contained factual errors or was incomplete. And I don't discount the possibility that I may have made some errors.

But, as always, I am most interested in arriving at the truth. As such, I would welcome any opportunity to discuss this issue with any or all of the respondents. Perhaps this could be a worthwhile educational exercise. Maybe I could meet with the students, teachers and parents who are active with this project. I am available to meet with any and all and I await your invitation.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mindless Idealism Causes Global Warming

Walden School is going green, according to an article in today's Journal Times. Students are getting involved, raising money for solar panels that will cost $232,000 and bring in annual revenue of $4,000. The "profits" will be used to "fund other projects, like improving the old windows..."

I hope the teachers at Walden will not let their zeal for environmentalism distract them from teaching core subjects like math. This project presents a unique learning opportunity for Walden students.

$4,000 divided by $232,000 = .0172413, or 1.7%.
$232,000 divided by $4,000 = 58.

The Walden project will earn an annual on return on investment of 1.7% and it would take 58 years to pay off the project and begin to profit from it.

Now suppose the Walden administration and students really wanted to replace those drafty, inefficient windows. Suppose they considered alternative uses for the $232,000. Lets say they found a bank willing to offer a 3.45% (double the return on the solar panels) annual return on the $232,000. They would have an annual return of $8,000 instead of $4,000. Using this conservative example, the cost of the mindless idealism being taught at Walden would be $4,000 per year.

But it is worse than that actually. Instead of placing solar panels on their roof, they could instead replace the windows. I suspect that they could save over $4,000 annually on reduced heating and cooling costs. And Walden is likely heated and cooled by using electricity, which is produced by burning coal, which we all know pollutes the air and causes global warming.

I wish the students at Walden would stop destroying our earth.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blissful Ignorance

I have had thousands of conversations with liberals in recent years. I understand their point of view, largely because I once shared their point of view. But it amazes me how ignorant liberals can be regarding conservative points of view. And when I say "ignorant" I don't mean to suggest that liberals are inherently stupid or anything of the sort. I mean to say that they have little or no exposure to serious conservative thought, and as such, are by definition, ignorant on the issue.

Unfortunately, it saddens me to report that this is often willful ignorance in the sense that they actively avoid exposure to conservative thought. An example of this tendency can be found at in a post entitled "The Other Side". Kay has signed up for some sort of conservative notice or something, it seems, for the sole purpose of ridiculing conservatives without having read their work. I challenged her to read an interesting book by the absolutely brilliant Thomas Sowell, which she promptly dismissed as propaganda. I suspect that the reason to avoid conservative thought is because one is insecure about one's beliefs and does not want them scrutinized.

Ignorance is bliss, they say. I disagree.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

City Business

I sat in on a city planning meeting this evening. If I had any hair, I would have pulled it all out.

A business on Rapids Drive wanted to put up a sign. Rapids Drive is a busy street with many businesses, many signs and no residences. However, there was a women there who lived on nearby Floyd Street but didn't want to be able to see the sign from her house. She wanted it moved down a bit so it would be out of her line of sight. I don't think city planners should set the precedent that people have a right to a particular view out their window. After all, the business may not like the look of that ladies house. This woman should have been told that the business has every right, per city laws, to have the sign there and that if she didn't like the view she could move or plant a tree. Next item!

Next item was a women who wanted to open a resale shop in a strip mall on Douglas avenue. Poor thing had to genuflect to the planners and agree to a number of conditions, some of which were outside of her control. Some of the conditions were landscaping, sign removal and consolidation, hours of operation and lots of other stuff. Now this woman does not own the property in question, she is a renter. The owner must make the adjustments that may well cost several thousands of dollars. My guess is that he/she will try to pass this cost along to his tenants. These additional costs will make it harder for this or any other business to survive. Look for more vacant buildings and fewer businesses on Douglas Avenue thanks to the city council and the planning department.

On a positive note, it looks like I will be able to put a deck on my building as I see fit. I happened to read the city ordinances and since my project will cost less than $5,000, I am exempt from having to prostrate myself in front of the taste police, er the downtown design review commission. What color should I paint the railings? I am thinking alternating pink and green railings would be quite a sight.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Teachers and Principles

A conversation was relayed to me recently wherein my retail business was being discussed. The conversation included several Racine Unified teachers who stated that while they liked the offerings at my store, they could not shop there, as a matter of principle. They evidentally did not approve of my public criticism of RUSD and the series of spending referenda.

Now I was not there, but if I was, I would have asked what principle they would be violating by shopping at my store.

Now it can't be that the teachers object to my constitutionally protected right to speak. Certainly this is part of the curriculum at RUSD schools, so it can't be that.

Could it be that they oppose political activism in general? Would they boycott my store if I had an "IMPEACH BUSH" and a "VOTE YES" sign in my window? Somehow I doubt it.

I am at a loss. I can't for the life of me figure out what principle is at stake for these teachers. Do any of my readers care to speculate?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Owens Legacy Used By Racemongers

Thank you Ken Lumpkin of the Insider News for telling the story of civil rights activist Corrine Owens. You can read it at: I have often been amused by the constant stream of awards bestowed on Owens, as I had no idea what she has accomplished. But thanks to Ken Lumpkin, I have a clearer picture of Owens and her efforts. Owens has shown courage and resolve in taking on the blatantly racist institutions and practices that were common in Racine and elsewhere. For this, she deserves credit.

But part of me believes that Owens is being used. She is being used, via award bombardment, to perpetuate an outdated and unnecessary style of activism. If blacks were barred from teaching in Racine Unified, for example, as they were several decades ago, then Owen's methods of persistant confrontation of racist institutions would be entirely appropriate. But times have changed.

Rather than dwell on Owens and her contributions, we should be engaged in debate and discussion about the present day problems facing the black community. By trotting out Owens every other day to accept yet another award, her followers are in effect saying that the present day problems facing the black community are the same as they have always been, namely, racist individuals and institutions-end of story.

This false narrative of the struggle among black people in Racine may well be benificial for black activist and their cohorts, the guilty white liberal, but it is an open question whether it is helpful to black people in general and black children in particular. I can think of nothing more harmful than to poison the minds of black children by telling them that white society is oppressing them and that any efforts to better themselves will be fruitless in our hostile society.

I respect Corrine Owen's efforts in confronting racism. She deserves to be recognized for her contibutions. And Racine deserves an honest discussion concerning the difficulties confronting the black community.

Sleepless Nights

I saw Mayor Becker last night and took the opportunity to complain about the fact that the unelected Design Review Committee can effectively veto my idea of adding a rooftop deck to my building on the grounds that they don't find it attractive enough. Never mind that my wife and I, and many skilled tradesmen, have taken one of ugliest buildings in the city and turned it into one of the most attractive. We simply can't be trusted to make attractive additions.

Mayor Becker said this government intrusion is for my own good. "You can sleep at night knowing that your neighbor will not be putting ugly additions on his building" said the mayor.

It is not potentially ugly redevelopment that keeps me up nights. Intrusive and paternalistic governments on the other hand...

Retailers Union?

Two downtown Racine retailers are seeking to organize other downtown businesses such that they cooperate for the good of all downtown retailers. So far, the group has suggested that downtown retailers stay open later on Fridays during the Christmas season and to offer limited Sunday hours. I can support this initiative as I have been preaching, and practicing, the notion that we need to better accomodate our customers with longer hours. So far, so good.

Now I have a sneaking suspicion that this group may offer some suggestions that I will not be able to support. Perhaps it is raging paranoia on my part, but I will not be in the least surprised if they will initiate a program to increase cooperation between retailers by "suggesting" which products or product lines a retailer may sell. It is my sincere hope that they do not take this step.

I very much want to have cordial and cooperative relations with fellow retailers downtown. Yet there are limits to the kind of organized activities that I could support. As a firm believer in freedom, I would resist and oppose any efforts by a group of people to tell me how to run my business. The phrase "mind your own business" seems particularly appropriate in this context.

My hope is that downtown retailers who are struggling will take a hard look at their internal operations rather than mistakenly assume that there is a collective solution to their business concerns. Are your products interesting? Are they displayed in an attractive manner? Are they priced to move? How do you treat your customers? Do you complain to customers about business? Do you manage your employees well? What is working? What isn't?

I want Racine to have a bustling and successful downtown. As such, I want my neighboring businesses to succeed, as it is better to have a thriving business next door than to have a vacancy.

My advice to downtown retailers: Focus more on internal operations and less on collective action.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Rate RUSD Cafeterias

If you want to know how the Racine Health Department rates local restaurants for cleanliness etc..., go to Not on their list are RUSD cafeterias. Given that tainted food may have caused an outbreak of food poisoning at some RUSD schools, perhaps parents would be interested in learning how their childs school rates in the cleanliness department. Maybe one of our local alderman could propose an ordinance to address this problem.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Nine Local Terrorists Arrested

I picked up the JT this morning and read the front page headline: "Third murder suspect arrested." Then I looked at the local section and found more good news: "Sixth murder suspect arrested." If the allegations are true, these people have been shooting up houses, breaking into homes, committing armed robberies, and of course, murdering people. There are now nine fewer terrorists on the streets of Racine. Good job RPD.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Law Could Sicken Economy

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Gregory Stanford wants to interfere with my business. In his Sunday commentary, "Don't call in sick at some firms", he calls for a law wherein employees would have the "right to earn up to nine sick days a year, to be used for actual illnesses."

Stanford predictably tells only half of the story by sharing anecdotes about people who became sick but had to come to work anyway. But no mention of the difficulty posed to businesses when employees decide to take a day off for the hell of it, as some surely would, or do.

I don't offer sick pay at my small business. My employees understand the reality that apparently does not dawn on Gregory Stanford. Small retail businesses, and I suspect many other businesses, don't have piles of extra money to throw around.

But I do the best I can to keep my employees happy. I am as flexible as I can be with requests for time off. I offer significant discounts to employees who may wish to purchase our items. I have given bonuses and this year a few of my long time employees were given a weeks paid vacation. If someone needs more hours, I try to accomodate them.

I do all this in part because I am a swell guy, but there is more to it than that. I want to keep good employees as happy as I can, so they continue to work for me. But I am constrained by reality as are most people. I can't offer health insurance, sick days, or six figure salaries. I do the best I can by my employees.

But my best is not good enough for Gregory Stanford.

The cruel irony is that Stanford's proposed law would be harmful to the very people he purportedly seeks to help. If our legislators pass new laws that undermine my business, I would probably manage to survive. I could make no such promises to my employees.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Accomplishments I'd Like To Know

I believe I have blogged once before on the subject of serial award collector Corinne Owens, but I feel compelled to do so once again. Owens is in the news again and like last time, I am still left wondering what it is that she has accomplished and why it is that she receives so much recognition. She was interviewed in the JT's "People You Should Know" series.

When asked "Why is what you've done important" Owens answered "Because it's all designed to help others."

Very well. My questions are as follows:

1) What has she designed?
2) Was it designed well?
3) Did it help others?
4) Who did it help?
5) How did it help them?

I know it is heresy in Racine to ask questions about Corrine Owens, but I will keep asking until someone can answer.

Racism and the Left

I just read an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel entitled "Minority professors rare in sciences."

The article sites a study that stated "Minorities are less likely to enter and remain in science and engineering when they lack mentors and role models."

Now I have not read the study and as such I may be fairly accused of being intellectually lazy. That aside, I have a problem with the above quote.

The quote assumes that people of one race or gender are incapable of mentoring or role modeling for someone of another race or gender.

I know that there are some for whom anything said or done in the name of diversity must be good. Do any of my readers wish to take a crack at defending the notion that a member of one race can't mentor someone of another race? Or do we all agree with me that this notion, emanating from the left, is quite obviously racist?

Friday, November 02, 2007

9-11 and partisanship

I was talking to someone the other day who believes that 9-11 was a cooperative effort between the Bush administration, CIA, oil buddies etc... and Osama et al.

There is a documentary out there that alleges that the buildings were cleared out and timed explosives were put in place. There are theories about the impossibility of melting steel causing the collapse of the buildings. There is apparently a CNN reporter on film stating that building #7 had collapsed, though it was pictured behind her at the time, only to collapse later. Someone who owns one of the buildings apparently has ties to the Bush family. And on and on.

In order for this conspiracy to be true, one has to believe that Bush, his family, and no doubt hundreds of others would be willing to incinerate a few thousand Americans in the hopes of cashing in later with war and oil profits. I simply can't believe (given the evidence that I have seen thus far) that hundreds of the wealthiest and most powerful individuals in the world would take the risk of getting caught, disgracing themselves, their family and their country to get rich. They are already rich.

Anyway, my question. Do you think that, given the exact same set of facts and theories, the 9-11 conspiracy believers would still be believers if you substituted Clinton for Bush as the main villian?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Lefty Lit

I was talking to a customer in my store some time ago and she made it abundantly clear that she was quite proudly liberal. We had an enjoyable conversation- it is possible by the way. I can't remember how the conversation went exactly, but I remember asking her what book or which intellectual most succinctly articulated the liberal political philosophy. Her answer and I am not making this up: Al Franken. I almost lost my drink through my nose. Now I am offering an opportunity for anon, CTW, Concrete Katie, Pete or anyone else primarily on the left to provide for me the book (a book is preferable to a person who may have written numerous books) that best explains your way of thinking. I just may read it if I haven't already. I thank you in advance for your suggestions.