Friday, May 29, 2009

Q and A with Earl Chrisianson

Unglued local lefty Earl Christianson had some questions after attending last months tea party demonstration at city hall. He asked them in a JT letter to the editor. Here are a few and I will try to answer them:

Earl: Was violent or nonviolent action being advocated by the lady peddling campaign type pins containing a picture of president Obama within a circle and a line slashed accross the photo?

Answer: Yes.

Earl: How couild parents ignore the heart-wrenching sight of three preschool age children trying to navigate the uneven grass? One child carried a protest sign in one hand and held a toddlers hand with the other. Every couple of steps the toddler fell and a third child struggled to pull the youngster up.

Answer: I was there, but I didn't see any toddlers walking on the grass holding hands, but be assured Earl, had I seen any such disturbing behavior I would have instantly called child protective services and pressed for a full investigation into the matter.

Earl: Finally, why are unknown persons, operating through straw organizations, involved in this covert operation? What's the agenda?

Answer: Earl, these folks were under the mistaken assumption that it was permissable to assemble peacefully without a written published agenda. I could tell you the agenda Earl, but then I would have to inflict a violent or nonviolent action upon you. It is best that you just pretend you never saw that rally Earl, and please, try to get that disturbing image of children walking hand in hand out of your mind.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Low Income Housing Venture a Waste of Money

Another day, another proposal for low income housing in Racine.

This time the proposal is for downtown Racine on 6th Street. The Racine Journal Times has the story. The building in question is a former YMCA owned by Emily Hill. Linda Ring Weber, Executive Director of The Housing Authority of Racine County wants to convert the building into 10 to 12 low income apartments.

This makes no sense whatsoever. Turning a gymnasium into housing will be extremely expensive. There would be a water hookup fee of a few thousand dollars per unit and let us not forget the prohibitively expensive sprinkler system that would be required. Well, prohibitive for the private sector anyway.

These are the reasons why large downtown buildings have not been coverted to apartments. The cost is way too high, water taxes and requirements are very expensive and taxes on the improvements sap any potential for profits.

Now only government has the resources remaining to build in Racine. My guess is this will cost over $2 million if it is completed. And this will be money spent unnecessarily. The Housing Authority already has an office and Racine has a surplus of low income housing.

Instead of wasting this money on real estate development, the Housing Authority should instead spend the money on housing its clients in the empty homes that already exist.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Walden School and Sustainability

Walden Students are learning about sustainability according to a small article in todays Journal Times. Good for them.

According to the article, the class was initially developed by the Keystone Center for Education and funded by Sustainable Racine.

The first thing these students should be taught - I am not holding my breath - is the manner in which these organizations are sustained, or not. These organizations are sustained by donations. And these donations were made possible by wealth creation. And wealth creation is best achieved in countries with free economies.

Walden students are to "develop and ultimately implement a project that will enhance the sustainability of Racine's future." Great! My hope is that these projects will reflect an understanding that "sustainability" is best achieved in a capitalist and free country. We shall see.

And Sam Braun, I will be counting on you for the sensible insiders perspective.

Socialism and Poverty

David Riemer thinks we can end poverty. Riemer is the director of policy and planning at Community Advocates of the Public Policy Institute.

Riemer argues, in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel commentary on Sunday, that "potential policy packages must be well-conceived and evidence-based, shaped by the poor themselves and rigorously tested..." Among his suggestions are to "raise the minimum Supplemental Security Income and Social Security payments to the poverty line plus $1... a WPA-like transitional jobs program.... and a somewhat higher minimum wage plus an increased earned income tax credit."

Additionally, we need to attack racism, greatly improve the health insurance system, improve the health and education of children etc....

The common thread to all this of course is increased government power and massive income redistribution, or, to be less delicate, socialism.

I wonder if Mr Riemer is interested in the evidence-based and rigorously tested outcomes of the myriad of socialist experiments throughout the world in the last hundred years or so. If he was, he would realize that socialism is not a solution to poverty but one of its main causes.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Owner or Renter

Yesterday I happened upon some folks from the proposed historic district of Racine whom I have known for quite some time. For several minutes we discussed the pros and cons of the proposed ordinance. The three of them were mostly favorable towards the idea, though they acknowledged some potential pitfalls and at least one of them was uncomfortable with the coercion necessary to achieve results.

All in all it was a rational discussion until one of them suggested that we can't own history, and that we can only rent it. Naturally I pounced all over that thought, asking from whom was she renting. She didn't answer that question but it isn't too difficult to figure out. We share our history collectively, we take care of it collectively, and any issues involving our history would be resolved via the collective, ie government.

I believe she has perhaps inadvertantly touched on the central issue here. Who's homes are these? What does ownership mean? Are we caretakers, renters from society, or owners? What do these differences mean with respect to the proposed ordinance?

My own view is that ownership means something and that the history worth preserving here is the historical understanding of ownership. And we should vigorously resist the city's latest attempt to chip away at that foundation.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fact or Fiction?

Driver: How fast was I going officer?
Officer: 15 over.
D: I suppose I am going to get a fine?
O: No Ma'am, we don't give fines or tickets anymore.
D: Excellent, then I will be on my way. Nice day officer.
O: Not so fast Ma'am. I need to issue you a vehicle speed inspection fee of $100.
D: A what?
O: We call them v-sifs for short. They're fast, less paperwork, more efficient, just easier all the way around for the city.
D: That's bull#$&*@! I will see you in court.
O: No ma'am you won't. The beauty of the v-sif is that you no longer get to contest the charges, er, the fee, in court. Like I said, we've got a real efficient operation here thanks to the aldermen and the mayor of Racine.
D: Well, what about my rights? What about the three branches of government? Can you just do away with the judicial branch? Ever hear of due process? Don't we have a constitution?
O: All good questions ma'am. But as an officer I am part of the executive branch, as you know. I enforce the laws. You might want to take up your concerns with the mayor.
D: Oh sure, the new mayor. He was just sworn in, right? And he swore to uphold the constitution, right?
O: Ma'am, I just noticed that you pulled over by parking meter. I am going to need to issue you a p-mif of $20. It's like the v-sif but for parking meters. Real efficient, easy, less paperwork...

Question: What is the difference between this scenerio and the "fees" issued by UNIT (Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team) other than that the offense is not happening to you?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Historic Designation Meets Resistance

I went to a public meeting tonight on the subject of turning the near south side of Racine into a historic district. What this would mean for property owners in the area is that alterations to their property would have to meet the approval of a commission, much like the one already in place downtown. Window replacements, roof reshingling, fences, porches, you name it, the decisions will no longer be made by the owners.

The reaction from the audience ranged from skeptical to hostile for the most part. Simply put, these folks didn't want to turn over the decisions regarding their property to the government.

Not everyone was opposed to the idea. One woman spoke in support and was generally well received until she said that not everyone is cut out for owning a historic home and that perhaps they should sell. She was shouted down, deservedly so imho.

Also speaking was Bob Hartman, a member of the Landmarks Commission that I believe is pushing this idea. Bob is a nice fellow but I believe he should have told the crowd that he stands to make money if the area becomes a historic district. How so? Well, Bob is a designer and would likely be on the commission, just as he is downtown. So he would probably get referrals to do the designs that would help his clients make it through the committee. Seems like a conflict of interest to me but at the very least Bob would likely profit from this move and I think he should have indicated as much to the audience.

Anyway, I am happy to report that a large number of property owners on the south side will not be handing over their property rights to the city without a big, loud fight. I just might like to join them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Teachers Union Using Adult Dupes

I started a bit of a fight over at the JT blog when I suggested that children shouldn't be used as pawns in political battles.

There was a protest organized by the Racine teachers union at a recent board meeting. They were lobbying for federal stimulus funds for more librarians. Several children, as young as nine, participated.

One of my detractors on the JT blog, 4kidsandacat had this to say:

Denis Navratil is assuming that parents are using children to achieve a political objective. How is having desire to have a librarian at a school full time considered a political objective? I don't get that, sir.

Well 4kidsandacat, desiring a librarian is not political. I have desired a few in my day as well. But the little darlings in question didn't just desire a librarian. They participated in a staged political protest organized by the local teachers union with the political objective of securing federal funds for more librarians. Does it get any more political than that? And 4kids, if you "don't get that" then you are as much a dupe as the kids. At least they have the excuse of being kids.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Racine Teachers Using Children in Political Fight

The Racine teachers union (aka Racine Education Association or REA) is now using elementary students to help fight their political battles. The REA and their child allies rallied at a RUSD Board meeting yesterday "in hopes that Unified will use federal stimulus money to bring more librarians to the district's elementary schools" according to the front page article intoday's Journal Times.

From the article:

"Speakers included Racine Public Library Director Jessica MacPhail, parents, a school librarian, Racine Education Association (REA) President Peter Knotek, a Unified alum and three elementary school children.

“We love to read,” said Maddy Bragulla and Sophia Formolo, both 11-year-old students at Schulte. The two spoke together at the meeting, asking board members to think of children before money.

Children also were outside before the meeting. Sam LaGuardia, a 9-year-old student at Schulte, held a sign reading, “We can’t access our school library without a librarian!”

“It’s confusing to all the other kids because they’re like, ‘is the library open or not?’” Sam said. “I’d like to go the library more often because we can check out more books and learn more interesting things.”

The rally was organized by the REA through flyers and word of mouth, Levie said."

I suppose that we are to believe that Sam and Maddy and Sophia were not coaxed by Unified teachers. Every nine year old I know just loves to scour the agendas of public meetings, looking for those issues that will prompt him to demand mom or dad to drive him to the meeting so he can hold up his hand made sign.

Does the REA have no shame? Stop using our children as political props. Fight your own battles.

Prevailing Values

One David Backman wrote a letter to the Journal Times on Sunday concerning pending legislation about prevailing wage law.

He writes: The current discussion to strengthen the state's prevailing wage law intends to protect and sheild workers from unscrupulous business or communities that look to make a profit off of their hard labor. Prevailing wage is about providing a skilled, trained workforce and a whole lot more. It really underscores a set of values that many in the construction industry hold dear - maintaining wages, providing health benefits, producing training and apprenticeship programs, caring for your workforce.

So these are Mr Backman's values?. Businesses should not make a profit but Mr. Backman should get skilled training, good wages, health benefits and caring from businesses. In his final paragraph Backman calls for taxing the oil companies. "Better them than me." he says.

Get everything you can. Demonize business. Screw the other guy.

No thanks Mr Backman. I hope my values prevail.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

LiberTEA Racine Launched, Attacked

LiberTEA Racine, a group of local citizens forming to protect and recover our liberties, has launched a blog, A web site will soon follow.

Pete at the Racine Post, a great reporter known the world over for his objectivity, has the story at

Note that Pete, in the first line of his story, uses a crude sexual reference in describing our group. Later he desribed the launch as a manifesto, a word normally reserved for Karl Marx or wackjobs like the unibomber. Pete later backed down a tad, saying he was quoting from the blog - an obvious false statement by the way - and you can check that out yourself if you like by reading the blog.

The launch of the LiberTEA Racine blog led to immediate attacks in the comments on the Racine Post. Those who oppose liberty are a potent force in Racine and they will obviously attempt to portray us in the most negative light possible.

We need to prove them wrong and stay true to our mission of protecting and recovering liberties with an issue oriented local focus and with non-partisan, active and responsible civic involvement.

Let our opponents be the naysayers who will need to explain why they are opposed to liberty.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

On Efficient City Government

I spoke with 15th District Alderman Robert Mozol yesterday about his proposal to extend the terms of Racine aldermen from two years to three. At this time, the proposal has been referred to the committe of the whole, according to Mozol.

I asked him how his proposed change would benefit Racine residents. His answer, paraphrased, was that Racine residents would benefit from a more efficient government. It takes time for an alderman to learn the ins and outs of city government, and that extra year would help aldermen get things done. A very small amount of money would be saved with fewer elections, though, to be fair to Mozol, he did not emphasize this point.

I disagree with Alderman Mozol for the following reasons, listed in no particular order:

1) If an alderman hasn't sufficiently learned the ropes after two years, he probably wouldn't be an efficient leader in his third year anyway, so voters should retain the right to replace him rather than live with his inefficiencies for yet another year.

2)The proposal, with respect to improving efficiency, would only affect first term aldermen. Do we want really want to reduce voter input by 50% so that a few slow learners can stay in office an extra year?

3)Our system of government was designed - think checks and balances - to be inefficient so that impulsive mistakes are not made.

4) Why is efficiency so important anyway? 6 year terms would be more efficient still. Elections are less efficient than appointments. Or we could do away with aldermen altogether and just have a mayor that issues orders. That would be more efficient still. My point is that perhaps we shouldn't be so enamored with efficiency in government.

5) Presently, a small percentage of voters elect our aldermen. Most aldemen continue on to a second term unopposed. Most residents have little or no input in city government between elections. Wouldn't government serve us better with more citizen input rather than this proposal which would reduce it further?

6)Veteran political observers well know that impending elections can have a dramatic effect on legislation. What this means, in other words, is that politicians will legislate differently, and often better, when they know that voters are watching more carefully. A local example, I suspect, was the West Racine low income housing proposal. This was sailing through the development office, committees etc... and then Becker got busted, an election ensued, and the proposal was shot down, unanimously if I recall correctly.

Sorry folks, I have been a bit wordy. I will wrap this up as efficiently as I can. Alderman Mozol's proposal is a bad idea for Racine.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

On Nature, Nurture, and Homosexuality

I was telling a story the other day at a dinner party, not meaning to start a political discussion. Anyway, when my son was three, my wife enrolled him in a class called something like Beginning Movement. When the time came for me to bring him to class, his third time, it was clear to me that he didn't want to go. I dragged him there (not literally) and watched as several young girls pranced happily about in pink dance outfits. My son was not enjoying himself. I asked him if he wanted to leave. There was no waffling with his answer - we bolted out of there and never returned. End of story.

Or so I thought. An openly gay man at the party was certain that my three year old was incapable of deciding for himself whether he liked to dance around with little girls. Rather, I had poisened his mind to the idea and my son was simply trying to please dad. He was certain that he was correct and brushed aside my opposing point of view.

Afterwords, as I mused over this discussion, I realized that what the man was saying was that environmental influences - ie my supposed bias against dancing - were the sole cause of my sons rejection of dance. In other words, he was not predisposed - ie born with - a distaste for dance.

Yet I have heard the same individual claim that one's sexual orientation is predetirmined. And this view is commonly held by gay people and woe to those who challenge them.

Anyway, I am by no means certain on the whole nature/nurture question though I strongly suspect that both play a role in our development. And that is a perfectly acceptable point of view, until it is applied to people who are gay.

On Resource Allocation

I like this sentence from today's Wall Street Journal:

"But you can only allocate a scarce resource in two ways: market prices or brute force."

Is there another way?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Seeds of Liberty

On Saturday, a dozen or so local citizens met (including yours truly) to explore the idea of forming a group dedicated to preserving our liberties from the near constant encroachment by government.

Though nothing has been formalized, nor any spokesperson chosen, it is my understanding that we have agreed to a basic concept. We will be issue driven, active and non partisan in an effort to preserve or recover our liberties.

Let me break this down a bit further:

Issue driven: We will focus on issues that affect our liberties. The purpose here is to take on issues and win! It is not about getting anyone elected although if that is a byproduct of our efforts, so much the better.

Active: We do not intend to be a group that gathers to preach to the choir. We want to be active. We want to do things to advance our causes. We want to actively protect our liberties.

Non partisan: We are not affiliated with the Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Constitutional or any other political party. However, we will coordinate with any or all of the above if, on a particular issue, they share our goal of protecting our liberties.

Look for more information on this subject in the not to distant future and consider helping us take on issues that should matter to us all.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Congratulations John Dickert

I know, I am several days late. I always seem to be out of town on election day. Anyway, congratulations are due to John Dickert. As I may have mentioned in a previous post, I have known John since grade school. I believe him to be a person of good character and I do not doubt his enthusiasm for Racine. These attributes will serve him well.

No doubt John will now have many new "friends" jockeying for position and influence. I won't be among them. But John can count on me to offer a fair and impersonal critique of his moves in office.

I am pleased that among John's first comments was a nod to businesses. I would happily advise him on ways to make Racine a more business friendly environment. For starters, a recognition of the effects of high taxes and overregulation would be helpful. And the election is over, you can stop the demogoguery about "slumlords" and recognize that they are small businesses providing a valuable service under very difficult circumstances.

Good luck John and remember the unions tried to defeat you. You owe them no special consideration.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Pay to Play?

I was watching the Chris Matthews show the other day as he and his liberal guests were analyzing the Arlen Spector defection. It was assumed that in return for a challenger free Democratic primary Spector must have agreed to push Obama's impending health care plan.

Didn't that used to be called "Pay to Play?"

Going Green

I heard a radio advertisement for the Racine bus system. Ride the bus, go green, save the environment etc... was the essence of the ad. The only problem is that riding Racine's bus system is NOT environmentally friendly. A huge bus transporting one or two passengers is terribly inefficient and wasteful.

Go green. Run away from the bus!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

On Stimulus and Job Losses

The 1st Congressional District Democrats have elected a new chairman, one Mark Pienkos.

From the Racine Post:

"Refering to yesterday's news that Chrysler's engine plant will close as part of the auto company's reorganization, Pienkos said, "Kenosha is losing jobs. Paul Ryan needs to answer for that."

"It all comes down to his stimulus vote," said Pienkos, a school superintendent. "Paul Ryan voted against this bill, against the 500,000 people per month who are losing their jobs."

Now wait one second Mr. Pienkos. Ryan's vote on the stimulus package matters not. It passed without his vote. The (mislabeled) stimulus package passed and was supposed to save or create millions of jobs. If it isn't working, as you suggest, wouldn't it make more sense to blame the people who voted for a very expensive stimulus bill that isn't stimulating?